Over 42 million Americans continue to smoke despite a link to bone disease, cataracts, diabetes, macular degeneration and erectile dysfunction. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable, premature death and illness in the United States and kills half a million people each year. As compared to the general population, a much smaller percentage of people 65 and over smoke. About 4 million (or 10 percent) continue to smoke. For those who quit smoking, even those who smoked for decades, quitting decreases your likelihood that you’ll die from a smoking related disease. Even quitting smoking after you’ve been diagnosed with a significant health problem increases the likelihood that you will successfully recover. However, quitting can be difficult. That’s why the National Institutes of Health recently launched a campaign specifically to help older adults stop smoking.
In the mid 50s, just about 60 percent of men smoked (and almost 30 percent of women did as well). Many men took up the habit when the federal government handed them out to soldiers during World War I and World War II. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the overall percentage of smokers is closer to 20 percent today.
Why worry about quitting now? Older smokers typically have more health issues than their non-smoking counterparts. Those health related issues are a strong indicator for whether or not you’ll be able to age in your own home. In addition, many medications react poorly to cigarette use and can exacerbate medical problems.
The final reason to quit smoking? A European study in 2008 found that of children in the first three primary grades that considered smoking normal and were more likely to dismiss health education messages, almost 60 percent of their parents and grandparents exposed them to the influence of smoking. More than three quarters of the children experienced smoking from the “broader family” meaning aunts, uncles, siblings etc. According to the National Institutes of Health, 5.6 million children alive today will ultimately die early from smoking if we do not do more to reduce current smoking rates.
Other stories about why your health is so important as you age.