Despite the fact that information regarding the harmful impacts that smoking has upon the health of our bodies is widespread, many seniors continue to smoke.
The factors that motivate people to continue smoking are varied and diverse, whether smoking is nostalgic, a coping mechanism, a stable habit, or a deep-seated addiction. No matter what fuels an individual’s smoking habit, the act of smoking is a very challenging behaviour to quit. In order to reach a better state of overall health and wellbeing, it is crucial that seniors make moves towards ceasing smoking. While the task of letting go of a well-established habit or addiction is daunting and will undoubtedly be difficult, with the right support, strategies, and encouragement, seniors can work towards smoking cessation and can improve their health in important ways.
Impacts of Smoking on Seniors’ Health
The negative impacts of smoking are widespread and impact multiple organs and systems within the body. Seniors are especially vulnerable to experiencing negative health concerns from smoking because aging bodies are less strong in their abilities to ward off disease and heal themselves from harm. Along with multiple other outcomes associated with individual experience and vulnerabilities, smoking increases the risk of the following:
- Low Blood Pressure
- Heart Disease
- Respiratory Problems
- Mental Decline
Working to Quit
Quitting any behaviour that has been a staple aspect of day-to-day life for a long period of time cold-turkey is very challenging, and smoking is no different. Many seniors have had their smoking habit for decades, and learning to cope without smoking can be incredibly challenging. This is especially true because the sudden absence of nicotine can result in uncomfortable symptoms such as increased heart rate, higher blood-pressure, and troubles with the nervous system as well as emotional changes. Multiple attempts are often involved as people work to successfully quit smoking because nicotine is one of the most addictive substances available. Commitment and determination are required to stay motivated and keep on track with the goal, in order to continue working through the difficulties that will undoubtedly come up during the process. The following are some strategies that can be helpful for seniors as they pursue a healthier, smoke-free lifestyle:
- Go Step by Step: Many individuals opt to work towards quitting by using smoking cessation products that offer them less and less nicotine on a gradual basis until they can break the addiction.
- Remind Yourself Why: Making a list of all the reasons to stop smoking can be helpful for those days when it begins to feel like more effort than it is worth. Reminding yourself why quitting is the right option can help.
- Be Accountable: Involving friends, family, or caregivers in the process of quitting smoking can help provide a sense of accountability that is attached to other people. This can help seniors remain motivated to stay on track.
- Take Each Day as it Comes: Thinking of each day as it comes can make things feel more manageable than trying to imagine going the rest of your life without a cigarette. It can be helpful for seniors to just think about making it to the end of the day so that they don’t feel overwhelmed by the work that will have to go into quitting over the long term.
- Reward Yourself for Successes: Quitting smoking is truly a difficult feat that will likely take a while. Setting short term goals and getting rewards when they are reached can act as a great form of positive reinforcement.
- Seek Support: Support groups are available that offer the opportunity to engage with other people with a shared experience and seek mutual support and encouragement through the process.
- Replace the Habit: Picking up another, healthier habit to engage with in place of smoking can help to take the mind off of nicotine and provide something else to focus on. Many people opt to chew gum or eat a piece of candy each time they feel a cigarette craving come on.
The harmful impacts that smoking has upon the body are pervasive and unnecessary, and can result in a lot of difficult health problems for seniors. While the idea of quitting might seem overwhelming and impossible, the reasons to stop far outweigh the time and effort that will have to go into shaking the habit and getting a handle on the addiction. With support from loved ones, healthcare professionals, and from resources available in Edmonton, seniors can work towards getting on top of their smoking habits and better prioritising their health and wellbeing.