Quitting smoking at any age can be a very challenging experience. For women approaching their premenopausal years, however, smoking cessation effects can be life-changing and make the difference between a happy, healthy lifestyle or a daily physical struggle.
It’s no secret that women over 40 often begin to experience physical changes that can impact their routine ways of doing things. Exercise may become a bit more challenging due to the natural age-related decrease in muscle mass or some of us may notice the appearance of our first tiny gray hairs. For some women, these changes can trigger feelings of anxiety, but for smokers, the body’s natural physical changes can highlight and wreak havoc on their quality of life.
There are many reasons to “nip the butts”, so to speak, but the following 4 smoking-related side-effects are especially troublesome for women in the 40-60 age-range:
Shortness of Breath
There are many women 40 and over who can run circles around 20-year olds when it comes to endurance and healthy fitness levels. But it’s quite natural for a woman to experience a decrease in her fitness level once she’s over 40. Exercises that seemed very easy at 30 or even 35, may begin to cause a slight shortness of breath and require you to put forth extra effort. The likelihood of this circumstance happening becomes much greater if you’re a smoker. Wheezing, coughing, even an onset of smoking-related Asthma can make workouts uncomfortable and sometimes painful.
Smoking Cessation Effects: Increased Energy & Stamina
Most people expect that they will breathe easier once they quit smoking. Being able to catch your breath is great, and because you’re less apt to get winded easily, you’ll like experience increased stamina and energy to get you through your exercise routines.
In addition, the ability to do deep-breathing exercising without struggling is also very helpful in getting a second wind when you’re feeling fatigued.
In therapy circles, smoking is sometimes referred to as “suppression sticks”. Many people I’ve known over the years have used cigarette breaks as a way to cope with stressful situations or to calm down when they’re feeling overwhelmed. Using cigarettes as the regular go-to remedy when you feel stressed out may provide a distraction in the moment, but the problems still remain long after the smoke clears. Having a cigarette creates the illusion that you’re making yourself calmer, but in reality, you’re simply delaying what you will eventually have to deal with head-on and without the buffer of a few puffs.
Smoking Cessation Effects: Stress & Anxiety Relief
When you aren’t using cigarettes as a way to “bring yourself down” from a stressful situation, you have a better ability to take a deep breath and clearly address your emotions. Your internal dialogue becomes much easier to hear when it’s not lost in a smoky haze. And of course for women in their 40’s and beyond, who are often juggling kids, spouses, work and home life, the sooner you can get relief from stress, the more present you can be for all of your most important responsibilities.
Wrinkle creams, soothing lotions, exfoliators - all of these skin treatments are strongly marketed to women in the 30-60 age range because companies are aware that skin elasticity and hydration decrease the older a woman gets. Without a doubt, it’s very important to keep your skin hydrated at any age, but as we get older, we need to work a little harder to maintain the healthy glow that we achieved without effort in our teens and 20’s. Unfortunately, smoker’s are fighting an uphill battle in this respect because, according to the U.S. National Institutes for Health, cigarette smoke not only leads to dehydration, but it also induces mucus obstruction and the development of chronic bronchitis.
Smoking Cessation Effect: Improved Skin Tone & Release of Toxins
Water, water, and more water! Instead of taking the time to light one up, use that time to take a few swigs of water. Instead of hosting all of the toxic chemicals that smoking will cause your body to produce, drink lots of water which will flush your body of toxins, keep your skin properly hydrated and beautiful, plus stimulate weight loss to boot!
Increased Risk of Stroke and Heart Disease
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “Smoking is a major cause of coronary heart disease and ischemic stroke among women. Risk increases with the number of cigarettes smoked and the duration of smoking...This risk is substantially reduced within 1 or 2 years after they stop smoking.”
So, in addition to what most people already know and understand about the relationship between smoking and Cancer, women must be particularly mindful that there are a host of other physical complications and ailments that smoking can usher in, especially after the age of 40.
Smoking Cessation Effects: Avoiding Life-threatening Illnesses
Life offers no guarantees of optimal health at any age, of course, even for the healthiest among us. But certainly, there are many things we can do to greatly improve our chances of avoiding illness and staying in the best possible physical condition for as long as we can. The need for vigilance in regards to our health becomes even more apparent for women as we move through our 40’s and we begin to see the physical evidence of our changing bodies and hormones. Quitting smoking may be more challenging at this stage, but never has putting a healthy lifestyle first in our lives been more important to our longevity.
Early Onset of Menopause
Women in their early 40’s are often surprised that pre-menopause symptoms can start at their age. Women smoker’s, however, may not only experience an earlier start to natural menopause, but their symptoms can also be much more severe than a non-smoker’s. Add to those facts that the CDC says “Postmenopausal women who smoke have lower bone density and increased risk for hip fracture than women who never smoked” - and the case for smoking cessation for women becomes pretty strong.
Smoking Cessation Effects: Improved Quality of Life & Vitality
There’s no question that the smoking cessation can hugely impact the overall health and longevity of women 40 and over. Younger women often neglect meticulous health care with little or no consequence, but as we age, that type of neglect can prove very dangerous. There are many ways that we can improve our regular self-care as we get older (routine physicals, exercise, nutritious eating, etc.), but smoking cessation, and the resulting health benefits it provides, ranks chief among all those actions.
*Photo by Anya Smith on Unsplash