Smoking and Bone Health

The damaging health effects of smoking are widely known and accepted as fact. However, there are massive numbers of people who still smoke despite this information! Smoking will be detrimental to your health regardless of your age, gender or ethnicity. And, in order to preserve optimum health, it is essential that you do not engage in this habit. Your bones are one particular part of your body that can be quite severely negatively affected by your choice to smoke.

Smoking and Health

From your first years up until around the age of 30, you are in your prime years for building bone mass. If you smoke during these years then you are going to have an unhealthy impact on this process, and therefore not have as strong bones as you could otherwise have. This may not seem like an immediate problem, but as you continue to age you will begin to feel the impact of having done so. Studies have shown that those who smoke during their teenage years are more likely to have a smaller skeleton and a decreased bone mass than those who did not smoke during this time.

If you continue to smoke as you age then you are only going to continue to add to the problems experienced by your bones. Women who smoke into their 40’s and beyond will be adding to the problem of decreased levels of oestrogen in the body at this age. Smoking will make this loss of bone mass more rapid and can actually also cause further complications that non-smokers are less likely to experience.

Why is Smoking so Damaging to Bones?

The toxins and nicotine contained within cigarettes are the source of this damage to bone health. When a person smokes a cigarette they will be allowing a huge amount of free radicals to form in the body. These free radicals wreak havoc and cause damage to the cells, hormones and also to the organs.

As the toxins from cigarettes make their way through your body they will disturb the natural balance of your hormones, which are needed in adequate levels to support bone strength. This disturbance can lead to increased levels of cortisol in the body, a hormone which contributes to the breakdown of bones. Some studies have also suggested, but not confirmed, that cigarette smoke will restrict production of the hormone calcitonin. Calcitonin is useful in the bone building process and impeding production with cigarette smoke can therefore potentially have serious long-lasting effects. Furthermore, the free radicals produced by cigarette smoke, and the nicotine itself, are known to kill bone-making cells in the body.

Blood vessels are another victim in the body of cigarette smoke. As your blood vessels become damaged the flow of oxygen will be harmed. This means that oxygen is less able to effectively move around your body to where it is needed. This is a huge problem, not least of all during the healing process. For example, if a smoker was to fracture a bone then they would heal slower than a non-smoker because the blood supply to the affected area would be poor. This is all the more important when we consider that smokers are more likely to experience such an injury because smoking also damages the nerves and blood vessels, causing a person to be more prone to falling. A smoker increases their risk of such accidents by approximately 50%, whereas heavy smokers are at an even higher risk.

How Can Quitting Smoking Help?

Choosing not to smoke anymore is one of the most positive steps a smoker can take towards improving their long term health. However, there are no complete guarantees how helpful this will be for immediate bone health. This is because the process of building bone mass is a long one. Any damage that occurs during this process will take a long time to rectify. That is not to say that the act of quitting smoking will not be helpful to the future health of your bones. The choices that you make today will undoubtedly affect your health a few decades down the line. It is also worth noting that the longer the period of time that a person has smoked for, the longer it will take to improve bone health, and some of the damage may indeed be irreversible.

A study that was published in the Journal of Women’s Health in 2006 showed that a group of postmenopausal women who quit smoking had improved bone density after one year. This demonstrates the potential for bone health to improve in a relatively short period of time! 

Remember, it is not only the health of your bones that you will be hurting if you smoke. You are also putting yourself at an increased risk of several diseases and other illnesses, as well damaging your immune system and the appearance of your skin. 

References

1) http://www.webmd.com/osteoporosis/features/smoking-cigarettes

2) https://smokefree.gov/health-effects