SENIORS’ HEALTH: Never too late to quit

Regardless of your age or how long you've smoked, it's never too late to quit, writes community health specialist Tracy Hoskin

  • Dec. 28, 2016 12:00 p.m.

The Seniors Health Network each month poses a question to health-care professionals. This month, the following hypothetical question was posed to Tracy Hoskin, community health specialist with Fraser Health:

I’m a senior and have smoked for many years, but I have an upcoming surgery this spring and my doctor said I should quit.

Regardless of your age or how long you’ve smoked, it’s never too late to quit.

Seniors have expressed time and time again that they want to remain independent for as long as possible. Giving up smoking helps you maintain or improve your current level of function.

Within 20 minutes, your blood pressure and pulse rate decreases and the oxygen level in your blood increases to normal.

Within days, breathing is easier and taste and smell improve.

Within two weeks, your circulation and lung function improve.

Most importantly, you recover more quickly from surgery and injury related to falls.

Quitting really is the best thing you can do for your health, but it’s not easy.

Quitting is hard.

You probably started smoking many years ago when it was fashionable, and less was known about the harms of smoking. You likely enjoy smoking and can’t even imagine life as a non-smoker.

And, like most people who smoke, you have probably tried quitting – maybe many times.

Quitting smoking is a journey and may take multiple attempts to be successful; it is more than just a habit.

So, why is it so hard to quit? Cigarettes contain nicotine, a highly addictive substance that produces positive feelings in the brain – it makes many feel calm and relaxed, but these feelings don’t last and you soon find yourself reaching for another cigarette.

Also, smoking becomes a habit that you associate with other daily activities, like having a coffee, driving in the car or socializing with friends.

So, to be successful you need to tackle both the addictive nature of cigarettes and your habits.

You will need to have a plan and there are many services available to support you along the way.

Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) – like the patch, nicotine gum, lozenge and inhaler can double your chances of successful compared to quitting “cold turkey”.

NRT contains low doses of nicotine that help to ease the cravings associated with quitting. As your body becomes accustomed to lower doses of nicotine, you begin to taper off the NRT.

The great news is that NRT is available free of charge through the BC Smoking Cessation Program. All you have to do is visit your local pharmacy.

NRT is safe to use for seniors, however your medications may need to be adjusted, so please speak with your doctor or pharmacist for advice on which form of NRT is right for you.

In addition to using NRT, developing a quit plan to address your smoking triggers is essential.

Here are some tips:

• Prepare yourself mentally for life as a non-smoker. Imagine yourself in various social situations and daily activities – what will it be like?

• Calculate how much money you will save and treat yourself to something special along the way.

• Know what triggers your smoking and think of coping strategies – reduce your caffeine intake, drink lots of water, knit, play Sudoku, take a walk.

• Tell your friends and family about your decision to quit so they can support you in this journey

• Set a date.

You don’t have to do it alone. Quit Now is a fabulous and free service that provides professional and individualized support for people looking to quit smoking.

Quit Now can offer personalized coaching through the telephone, instant chat and text. They have many useful resources on their website and run quit contests each and every Tuesday for a chance to win $250!

Regardless of your goals for smoking cessation, they will help you achieve success.

As you move closer to your surgery it is important to acknowledge that all Fraser Health facilities are smoke-free, which means that while in hospital for your surgery you will not be able to smoke as much as you would like, and may experience symptoms of withdrawal if you do not quit or reduce prior to surgery.

By quitting smoking in advance of your surgery, you are improving your body’s ability to heal and reducing the time you will need to recover.

Fraser Health staff will support you along the way by offering resources and nicotine replacement therapy (nicotine gum, lozenge, inhaler or patch) during your stay.

Your upcoming surgery is the perfect opportunity for you to become smoke-free and it truly is never too late!

To access QuitNow, visit www.quitnow.ca or call 1-877-455-2233.

For free NRT, visit your local pharmacy.

Tracy Hoskin works alongside local government and community organizations to deliver effective health promotion messaging and develop healthy public policy.

The South Surrey White Rock Seniors Health Network is a coalition of seniors service providers working under the auspices of the Mayor of White Rock’s office. For information on community resources, visit sswr.fetchbc.ca.

If you have a question for publication, please email seniorshealthnetworksswr@gmail.com

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