Harvard Health Letter

Ask the doctor: Why quit smoking at an older age?

Q. I am 73 years old. Will quitting smoking really make a difference in my health at this point?

A. In my patients who are smokers, one of the biggest obstacles to quitting is their belief that they've already damaged their body and quitting won't reverse that damage. I tell them that many careful studies have shown that their thinking is wrong. In fact, your body has enormous recuperative powers, if you give it a chance, regardless of your age.

It is true that the sooner you quit smoking, the greater the benefit will be. But even if you've smoked a great deal for many years, quitting smoking will reduce your risk of the many diseases caused by smoking. It will even lengthen your life. If you already have developed heart disease—which, like lung cancer, is stimulated by smoking—you benefit greatly from quitting. You greatly reduce your risk of heart attacks and death from heart disease. So talk to your doctor about quitting.

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