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The Over-50s Multi-action Guide to Quitting Smoking

by Richard C. - February 13 , 2017


Photo Credit: by TBEC Review
Photo Credit: by TBEC Review

Indulge us in a little hypothetical. You started smoking when you were young. Your mom smoked, your dad smoked, your friends smoked - heck, everybody smoked back then. Then as the decades passed and new scientific evidence came to light, it became increasingly apparent that smoking was bad. Life-threateningly bad. But by that time, you were already a committed smoker. You were hooked.

You tried to quit a couple of times, but after smoking for so long it didn’t seem worth the struggle. Besides, you enjoyed smoking. A glass of beer always went better with a cigarette; a good meal was always followed by a smoke; and that old movie cliché of the post-coital puff? The only thing better than sex was the cigarette you smoked afterwards.

So now you’ve been around the block, visited a few places, seen a few things, and as you enter the second act of the play that is life, you’re still smoking. What’s the point of quitting now, right?

Because the best time to quit is now. Not then, not tomorrow, not sometime: now. It doesn’t matter how old you are or how long you’ve been smoking; if you quit now, the rest of your life will be better. That’s a guarantee.

Why quit smoking?

There are some obvious truths around smoking that everyone knows about, but are worth covering in brief. Smoking kills. It causes cancer. It increases the risk of heart disease. Smoking thickens blood and narrows your arteries, reducing the amount of oxygen-rich blood getting to your cells and increasing the likelihood of clots forming. Smoking doubles your chances of having a stroke. It can cause impotence in men and infertility in women.

You probably know all this already. Even if you didn’t, it’s hardly a revelation to inform someone that smoking is bad for them - it says it right there on the packet. But that doesn’t stop us, and I say us because I myself am an on-off smoker. What you maybe don’t know is what can happen if you quit smoking.

Photo Credit: by Pixabay
Photo Credit: by Pixabay

Here’s an NHS breakdown of what happens after your last cigarette:

After 8 hours, the levels of nicotine and carbon monoxide in your blood reduce by more than half.

After 48 hours, carbon monoxide and nicotine are eliminated from your body, and your lungs start to clear out mucus.

After 72 hours, your bronchial tubes will begin to relax and your breathing will get easier.

After 2 - 12 weeks, your circulation improves.

After 3 - 9 months, any breathing issues will start to improve as your lungs heal.

After 1 year, the risk of heart disease is about half that of someone who is still smoking.

A year is a long time, but as you get older these years become more precious, each one more valuable than the last. Just one year of not smoking could give you back so many more years that might have been lost otherwise.

So maybe you’re thinking, “That’s all well and good if you quit soon enough, but I’ve been smoking for so long that it wouldn’t make a difference.” That’s absolutely not true, and there’s evidence to back it up. The German Cancer Research Centre conducted a study of smokers aged 50 - 74, and found that “those who quit smoking even at an advanced age will have a considerable decrease in their risk after a very short time”. The research showed that the risk of smokers in this age bracket having heart attacks and strokes was reduced by 40% in just five years.

The benefits of quitting smoking aren’t just restricted to ‘not dying’, either - it can drastically improve your quality of life in so many areas. Mobility becomes more of an issue as you get older, and smoking only makes this more difficult. Clogged arteries make it more difficult to get oxygen around your body, while tar-damaged lungs make breathing a real challenge. The International Osteoporosis Foundation says that smoking does real damage to your bones and that smokers face an increased risk of osteoporosis in old age, which again will severely limit your mobility.

Quitting smoking would enable you to be more active and give you more independence in later life. No one wants to be confined to chair because they can’t stand up without wheezing; no one wants to miss out on travel and new experiences because they can no longer walk long distances. Quitting doesn’t just help you live longer, it helps you live better.

Then there’s the effect that quitting will have on your family. You want to spend as much time with your family, your children and grandchildren, as is humanly possible. Quitting smoking will almost invariably give you more years on earth together. Not only that, but there’s a good chance that your family would love to see you kick the habit. Think how proud they’d be to see you take up the challenge and finally quit, and what a demonstration of your love for them that would be.

Convinced? Excellent, you’ve taken the first step.

How do I quit smoking?

Photo Credit: by mendhak
Photo Credit: by mendhak

If you’ve been addicted to smoking for several years, quitting can seem like an insurmountable effort, but it’s all a question of willpower. That’s why the first tool in your anti-smoking arsenal is commitment. You have to be completely frank with yourself and know that it’s going to be hard, but that this is the best thing for you and will 100% be worth the struggle. If you talk to anyone who has quit smoking, they’ll tell you the same.

Next, you have to decide how you’re going to quit: gradually or going cold turkey. Both have their pros and cons. If you quit by gradually reducing the number of cigarettes you have each day, you will experience less of the withdrawal symptoms that you get with cold turkey, but on the other hand, you are still smoking. Some people try quitting gradually and find that they’re happy just to smoke less, which is undoubtedly an improvement, but still damaging to your health.

Going cold turkey means that you stop smoking immediately and go from, say, 20 cigarettes a day down to zero. The benefits are obvious: from the first day you quit smoking, you’ve quit smoking, and your journey back to full health starts on day one. Of course, the drawback is that you will probably experience some heavy withdrawal symptoms, which can include: intense cravings for nicotine, cramps, sweating, difficulty sleeping, irritability and anxiety. You need to have full confidence in your willpower in order to go cold turkey, because the temptation to smoke will be strong.

Ultimately it’s up to you to decide how you want to quit, but it’s worth speaking to your doctor or healthcare professional to get some advice based on your own medical needs. However you choose to quit, there are a number of tools at your disposal to aid you in your journey. Without cigarettes, your body isn’t getting the nicotine that it craves, so one way to help soothe these cravings is through nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products. These can include gum, sprays, patches and inhalers, all of which give your body the nicotine it is craving without the harmful chemicals that are in cigarettes.

Canadian Pharmacy World offers several of these NRT quitting aids. Right now you can get:

A 105-piece order of Nicorette Fresh Mint Gum at 2 mg strength for $36.99

A Nicorette inhaler kit from $69.99

A 7-piece order of nicotine patches at 7 mg strength for $28.00

A 3-piece Nicorette Quick Mist spray for $145.00

You can see all of Canadian Pharmacy World’s NRT quitting aids here.

Canadian Pharmacy World also stock Chantix, a nicotine-free drug that helps you quit smoking. According to the manufacturer, 44% of smokers taking Chantix had quit by weeks 9 to 12. It’s prescription only, so you’ll need to talk to your doctor before you can use it.

Right now you can get a 56-piece order of Chantix 0.5mg tablets for $150.

Photo Credit: by RegBarc
Photo Credit: by RegBarc

Quitting smoking alone is a difficult process, so it’s important to surround yourself with supportive people who will help you along. The first place to check in is with your family and friends - the people who love you. They will not only be thrilled that you’re quitting, they’ll want to support you through your journey. When quitting alone, you’re only accountable to yourself, so it’s good to have other people to check in with and to help keep you on course, as well as providing emotional support during the most difficult stretches.

The only downside is that your family and friends may not smoke and don’t really know what you’re going through, which is why it’s also good to consider joining a stop smoking support group. A quick search online should bring you results for community groups in your local area, but you can also ask your doctor or healthcare provider for more information. According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, smokers tend to quit in clusters; the research found that smokers who were friends with someone who quit were 36% more likely to quit themselves, so the more you surround yourself with like-minded people, the better chance you have of kicking the habit.

If you have a smartphone, there are a number of apps that can help you quit smoking, and a lot of them are free to download. For iPhone, Quit Pro tracks the cigarettes that you smoke (and the ones you don’t) and the situations in which you smoke them. This helps you to build patterns, figure out when you’re going to be most vulnerable, and how to avoid cravings. For Android, Get Rich or Die Smoking gets you to quit by calculating how much money you’re saving by not buying cigarettes, as well as tracking your health progress.

Photo Credit: by Quit Pro / Apple Store
Photo Credit: by Quit Pro / Apple Store

You can check out a list of paid and free quitting apps for both iPhone and Android here, or if you’re not 100% au fait with technology, ask a young person.

With all these weapons in your arsenal, your battle against cigarettes will be well-fought, but the biggest and most important weapon is the very first that we mentioned: willpower. There will be difficult times that the apps, NRT products or support groups can’t get you through - the only thing that can stop you having a cigarette is you. Millions of people have quit smoking and gone on to lead happy, healthy lives, and if you want to join them, there’s only one person in your way. You can do it. You’re not too old. You’ve got a lot of life left to live and it starts today. Good luck, stay strong and believe in yourself.

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Rich Cooper is a writer based in London, England. He is Senior Writer at JOE.co.uk and works as a freelance writer. He writes about mental health, technology and masculinity (and sometimes pizza).


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