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World No Tobacco Day: The Effects Of Smoking On Bone Health

Every year, World No Tobacco Day is observed on 31 May. The day revolves around raising awareness on the dangers of using tobacco. World No Tobacco Day was created in 1987 by the Member States of the World Health Organization to draw attention to the tobacco epidemic and the preventable death and disease it causes.

The theme for the World No Tobacco Day 2020 is #TobaccoExposed, where the WHO tries to debunk myths and expose devious tactics employed by the tobacco industries. For World No Tobacco Day 2020, the World Health Organisation focuses on protecting youth from industry manipulation and preventing the use of tobacco and nicotine.

On this World Tobacco Day, let us explore how smoking can affect your bone health.


Smoking And Your Health

The never reducing number of deaths caused by cigarette smoking is the only valid proof one needs to understand the dangers of the habit of smoking. Tobacco used in any form is harmful. Despite several measures taken up by the government and other non-governmental organizations to curb tobacco usage, still, its usage has remained all-time high [1].

The nicotine content in the cigarettes gets absorbed and penetrates the bloodstream via lungs and stimulates the electrical activity in the brain and also has a soothing effect especially when stressed. Of all the forms of tobacco, studies have shown that smoking accounts for almost 25 per cent of deaths annually in the age group of 30-60 years globally [2].

Some of the most common health problems caused by the habit of smoking are as follows:


How Does Smoking Affect Your Bone Health?

Studies strongly point out that smoking is extremely bad for your bones. The years from childhood until age 30 are prime time for building bone mass and when an individual begins smoking at a young age, they will not develop maximum bone mass and ends up having smaller skeleton and less bone mass, compared to a nonsmoker [14][15].

It does not mean that smoking affects bone health only during the adolescent phase as smoking continues to affect bone health in your 40s and 50s [16].

So, how does tobacco worsen your bone health? Let's take a look.

  • Cigarette smoke generates free radicals (molecules that attack and destroy the body's natural defences), which damages the cells and hormones involved in keeping bones healthy [17].
  • The toxins from the smoke cause an imbalance of hormones like oestrogen that are required for strengthening your bones [18].
  • The habit of smoking causes your liver to produce more oestrogen-destroying enzymes, which leads to bone loss.
  • It can trigger the production of increased levels of the hormone cortisol, which leads to bone breakdown [19].
  • Smoking prevents the production of calcitonin, which helps build bones.
  • The nicotine content in tobacco kills the osteoblasts, the bone-making cells [20].
  • In other ways, smoking can damage your blood vessels as it prevents the proper supply of oxygen. This, in turn, leads to damaged nerves in toes and feet, which can lead to more falls and fractures [21]. Studies point out that, if a smoker suffers a fracture, the healing can be slow, due to the poor blood supply [22]. Also, smoking makes the bone loss even worse in the menopausal years and it adds to the bone loss that is already occurring.


Will My Bone Health Improve If I Quit Smoking?

A widely asked question and the answer to it is that as the process of bone-building is a slow one, quitting the habit of smoking will not immediately improve your bone health and some of the damage may be irreversible [23].

However, with changes in your diet, habits such as alcohol use, one can improve their bone health. But, heavier the smoker, slower the progress.


How To Improve Bone Health?

  • Consume enough protein
  • Eat calcium-rich foods such as milk, yoghurt, soybeans etc.
  • Avoid low-calorie diets
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Exercise regularly
  • Include foods rich in zinc and magnesium
  • Consume foods rich in omega-3 fats

On A Final Note…

Inhaling secondhand smoke also causes lung disease in non-smoking adults, and raises the risk of heart disease by 25-30 per cent. Children exposed to cigarette smoke are at a greater risk of SIDs, severe asthma, bronchitis and passive smoking even decrease the growth of their lungs.

Quitting can help reduce the risk of suffering from diseases caused by smoking, as well as improving your overall health.

Story first published: Sunday, May 31, 2020, 18:19 [IST]
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