“Oh, there’s no point in me stopping smoking at my age. I’ve been smoking since I was 14, so all the damage’s done.”

This is a common excuse used by older people, and many doctors have gone along with it and not pressed the point. But how valid an excuse is it?

Smoking causes a lot of deaths and illness. It has been estimated that if there’s no reduction in smoking it will result in over a billion deaths in the 21st century. The World Health Organization blames it for 12% of male deaths and 6% of female deaths worldwide.

Many studies have shown that stopping smoking reduces this risk, with the benefits increasing the longer a person remains a non-smoker. But these studies have mostly been based on middle-aged people.

Now a recent study* has looked at evidence for smokers older than 60, bringing together the data from 17 studies in seven countries. It showed that, even up to the age of 80, stopping smoking was effective in reducing deaths.

This study firmly shows that older people should be encouraged to stop smoking if they can. Many 60- and 70-year-olds are likely to live to much older ages, with plenty of time to experience the benefits of giving up.

The study also shows how important it is for us all – younger people, older people and the medical profession – to be cautious about coming to erroneous conclusions about the health of older people without the information to back them up.

*Link to study

Professor Brian Kirby, author of How to Live to 110: Your comprehensive guide to a healthy life

 

We often judge when someone is happy or sad by looking at their face. It’s a clue to when someone is depressed: their face often shows lines associated with worry and sadness.

Rather surprisingly, a study* has showed that getting rid of these lines cosmetically – and effectively paralysing the frowning muscles – by using botulinum toxin (often referred to by the commercial name “Botox”) seemed to make depressed people less depressed. Six weeks after an injection to remove the crease low on their forehead, their depression score improved by nearly 50%, and the score seemed to improve further with time.

So what was happening? It is usually thought that sad facial expressions are the result of depression and therefore only likely to change as the depression lifts. However, it’s known that the muscles of expression are intimately linked with processes in the brain, to the extent that changing your facial expression can affect your mood. But it comes as a startling finding that this can happen when using a cosmetic procedure.

The study was small and it could be a chance finding, or there may be another explanation. But perhaps this finding may open up new avenues of research in a common and frequently disabling disorder.

*Link to study

Professor Brian Kirby, author of How to Live to 110: your comprehensive guide to a healthy life

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