Q: I am writing to get help for my brother. He has been a smoker for more than fifty years. He has tried quitting on numerous occasions but it never lasted beyond a week or so. He finally just gave up. His physician has told him he is in danger of losing his legs due to poor circulation and it is crucial that he stop smoking immediately. My brother is scared but doesn’t know how he is going to kick the habit. Do you have any useful information?
A: Most of us would agree smoking is an unhealthy habit, it is estimated 1 of every 5 deaths in the U.S. are directly related to the use of nicotine. Those who have been fortunate never to have picked up that first cigarette may think if it is so risky why don’t smokers just quit… they can’t totally comprehend how difficult it can be to kick the habit.
Older adults who have smoked for most of their lives may question if it is really worth the effort. The point that needs to be made… “it is never too late to quit”. Within 20 minutes after the last cigarette a person’s heart rate drops and it only takes 12 hours for carbon monoxide levels in the blood to drop to normal. As with your brother the repercussions of his continuing to smoke are very serious and could be fatal.
The first step in trying to give up smoking is actually making the decision to quit. It is important to realize success may not come easily and it may take more than one attempt. How the person is going to quit is the next step, there are numerous options. A few people actually have the ability to quit cold turkey, others find cutting back a few cigarettes at a time works for them. Reality is there are smokers who require substantial help in the process of breaking the addiction of nicotine. Nicotine replacement products such as gum, lozenges or patches can be helpful in quitting and also reduce nicotine withdrawal symptoms. Physicians may prescribe nicotine nasal sprays, inhalers or medications for those individuals finding it harder to break the cycle of using cigarettes.
Once you make that decision to quit smoking give some thought to the triggers making you want to reach for a cigarette. Carry snacks (gum, nuts or hard candy) to reach for to take the edge off or get up and exercise when you have a craving . Until you feel strong enough to resist the temptation try to avoid environments where other people are smoking. Ask friends and family to support you through this process. A printable Quit Plan is available at www.60plus.smokefree.gov/tools which may be useful.
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Do you have a question? We encourage inquiries and comments from our readers. Please direct your correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org or Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Inc., Age Information Department, 280 Merrimack Street, Suite 400, Lawrence, MA 01843. Joan Hatem-Roy is the CEO of Elder Services.