News & tips on health, fitness and nutrition

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Quitting Still Benefits Longtime Smokers

Studies have shown all kinds of health benefits from quitting smoking. But do those studies apply to longtime smokers? Can people diminish the effects of decades of smoking?

Research suggests that the answer is yes. Even people who have smoked for decades are seeing improvements in their health after they quit. Plus, there are the countless other benefits of quitting—from easier breathing when exercising to protecting others from secondhand smoke.

It Pays to Quit
Researchers followed men who quit smoking around age 64. What did they find? Even after an average of 43 years of smoking, these men were able to reduce their risk of death from cancer, heart disease, and other problems.

In another study, a 68-year-old man who has smoked two packs a day for 50 years and continues to smoke has a 1 in 7 chance of developing lung cancer in the next 10 years. His risk immediately drops to 1 in 9 if he quits smoking.

Approaches That Work
Smoking is a difficult habit and addiction to end. If you are among the thousands of smokers who long to quit, you may want to ask your doctor about the best approach for you. She may suggest one or all of the following ways:

1. Set a quit date within the next month.

2. Consider using a nicotine substitute to ease cravings, such as the patch, gum, or lozenge. Some types of nicotine substitutes, such as nicotine sprays and inhalers, can be prescribed by your doctor. A prescription antidepressant also can help tame your urge for nicotine.

3. Change your habits to help you deal with withdrawal. For example, if the taste of coffee triggers your urge to light up, switch to water or juice, instead.

4. Stop-smoking programs and exercise can help people change their smoking habits. In one study, regular exercise combined with counseling helped women stay off smokes.

5. Ask for support from your family and friends.

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