Mahatma Gandhi once said, "Don’t give up anything until you don’t need it anymore." But for smokers it may not be that easy, especially older adults who have smoked for decades. However, it’s never too late to give up smoking and reduce your risk of heart disease and lung cancer. Also, if you continue to smoke and are currently being treated for a chronic health problem such as high blood pressure, you’re ignoring an important part of your treatment.
There Are Different Approaches…But Five Basic Steps to Take
Quitting "cold turkey" may be the only program some seniors need. Others, however, may need group support or self-help guidelines. And those with severe withdrawal symptoms may require transdermal nicotine patches or nicotine gum, combined with behavior modification, to kick the habit.
1. Question Your Readiness
Have you thought about quitting in the past six months? If you have, you have a better chance of quitting. You should clearly understand the benefits of quitting. Make a list of the pros and cons. If you believe that the benefits of becoming a nonsmoker are greater than staying a smoker, then pledge to quit within the next 30 days. Still unsure? Weigh the benefits and risks some more.
2. Establish Your "Quit Date"
Don’t stretch your smoking cessation out over many months. Reducing how many cigarettes you smoke or switching to a low-tar, low-nicotine brand may only prolong your withdrawal symptoms. Instead, set your Quit Date, allowing only 30 to 45 days to cut down. On your Quit Date, stop smoking!
3. Prepare to Quit
During the 30-to-45-day Quitting Period, keep a record of how much you smoke each day. Delay having your first cigarette by 30 to 45 minutes. Develop alternatives to smoking for times when you crave a cigarette: Drink a glass of water, chew gum, do aerobic exercise, do a relaxation exercise, chat with a friend, do yard work—whatever it takes. You might want to explore using over-the-counter nicotine gum or a transdermal nicotine patch; be sure to use as directed. Also, you may want to talk to your doctor about Zyban—a prescription medication that reduces nicotine cravings. Check with your doctor before using any drug if you have heart disease, high blood pressure, or are pregnant.
Also, consider joining a formal smoking cessation group if group interaction and social support will help motivate you.
4. On Your Quit Date
Celebrate! Give yourself a reward: a special meal, a new outfit, or tickets to a sports event or concert. Pitch any leftover cigarettes—you are now a nonsmoker.
5. Sticking with It
- Continue to get regular exercise, eat right, and use relaxation techniques to manage stress.
- Avoid places or events where many people will be smoking.
- Chew sugarless gum or eat natural snacks for a healthful "fix."
- Don’t tell yourself that just one won’t hurt. But if you do slip, stop right there.
- If you do fail to quit, don’t be discouraged! Revisit step 1 and try again.