Osteoporosis is the thinning and weakening of the bones that occurs as individuals get older. It is far more common among women than men. In fact, 80% of osteoporosis patients are women above the age of 40. It is highly recommended that all women 50 and above get a bone density test.
While there are many causes of osteoporosis, one of the most common causes is smoking. Even though smoking may be difficult to quit, continuing to do so will increase your chances of developing osteoporosis.
Understanding Bone Degeneration
Depending on nutrition, lifestyle, genetics, and gender, your bones gradually weaken over time. Bone remodeling is a natural process where special cells called osteoclasts break down the bone, and osteoblasts build it back up again. It's like constant infrastructure renovation to keep you healthy.
Although it is completely normal for bones to breakdown and regenerate, they break down faster than they can rebuild. This is what causes osteopenia, a precursor to osteoporosis, and then ultimately osteoporosis. There are many factors that can cause this imbalance, including cigarettes.
Cigarettes and Bone Health
Cigarettes affect bone health even in a person's youth. Individuals who smoke before they've fully developed will not reach their peak bone density. The longer the habit continues, the greater the risk of weak bones and fractures. Adults who smoke are also more likely to need surgeries, especially in the hips and spine.
This is because the chemicals in cigarettes bind to cellular aryl hydrocarbon receptors in the body. This actually causes the excessive multiplication of osteoclasts, which causes rapid bone density loss.
It's Not Too Late
Luckily, this loss of bone density can be halted. If you make positive lifestyle decisions, the osteoblasts and osteoclasts will continue working in harmony to ensure a strong skeletal system. The number one thing a smoker can do to assist their body is to quit smoking. This can be difficult at first, but the benefits are profound - not only for the strength of your spine, hips, and wrists, but your overall well-being, too.
In addition, you will have more energy to exercise when you are smoke free. While exercise benefits your body in so many ways, it helps strengthen bones, which will decrease your chances of developing osteoporosis. Also, by making sure you are getting enough calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, and vitamin K in your diet, you will improve your bone health, along with making these other positive changes in your lifestyle.
Many people are finding the strength to quit smoking. Although it takes effort, there are countless sources out there to help you quit. Do it for your bones and for yourself.
- Iqbal, J. et al. (2013). Smoke carcinogens cause bone loss through the aryl hydrocarbon receptor and induction of Cyp1 enzymes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1220919110
- New York State Department of Health. (n.d). Smoking Your Bones. Retrieved March 28, 2014, from http://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/conditions/osteoporosis/smoking_and_your_bones.htm
- Penn News. (2013). Penn Researchers Pinpoint How Smoking Causes Osteoporosis. Retrieved March 28, 2014, from http://www.upenn.edu/pennnews/news/penn-researchers-pinpoint-how-smoking-causes-osteoporosis
- Office on Women's Health. (2012). Osteoporosis Fact Sheet. Retrieved March 28, 2014, from https://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/osteoporosis.html