This is the second of three posts on how lifestyle choices can produce often painful bone health outcomes in later life. This time I’m turning the lens on smoking.
Since the media trumpets the link between heart disease, chronic lung disease, and cancer – lung and asophageal – you might not want to hear that smoking depletes bone strength, and those of us who smoke and make it into their seventies are very likely looking at osteoporosis.
Inhaled smoke pumps up the free radical population. Free radicals are attack molecules; they invade healthy tissue. In bone terms free radicals can kill the osteoblast cells needed for bone renewal and they mess up hormone levels – reducing the ones like estrogen that we need to help keep bones healthy (yes gents we have estrogen too and not enough to spare) and elevating hormones like cortisol that promote bone loss and seem to block the hormone calcitonin which helps build new bone.
Altogether every inhale makes a devastating multi-pronged attack on your bones.
And if that isn’t enough warning, here’s a hard and cold fact: Every lung cell accumulate 150 extra mutations for each year of smoking one pack of cigarettes a day. Each of these mutations could turn the healthy cell into a cancer cell. And research shows now that smoke triggers mutations – potentially perilous mutations – in a regular smoker’s body organs too.
And if that isn’t enough, consider that these mutations don’t necessarily disappear once you quit. I smoked from age 15 until age 30. I’m 75 now and last year one of those mutations did the trick: doctors found a tiny – 2mm – tumor that cost me half a lovely lung. I thought it might have been something else, old damage, whatever denial would allow, but my very experienced surgeon told me that from the form and density it was likely to be a smoking-related tumor.
Helen was also a smoker. She started at age 15 and quit when she was 52. That’s when someone told her that tobacco companies increase nicotine levels in cigarettes to keep smokers addicted, and checking it out she read results of two major studies describing nicotine levels in cigarettes that had somehow risen 11% in less than ten years. Now how could that be? She was angry enough to quit that day and hasn’t looked back.
Well, I have already written in another post that men suffer 20% of the osteoporotic fractures and have worse outcomes than women and often die in the year following the fracture. So am I trying to badger you? No. Am I encouraging you to quit, or cut down, to improve your general prospects? Absolutely. The less you smoke the less likely you are to die from lung cancer, bladder cancer and osteoporotic fracture that may otherwise call on you when the years have passed and you have become an elderly gent.