You are young, you want to look cool, more grownup, so you think lighting up that cigarette will give you that look you desire. You know it’s bad for your health. But you are young and healthy, and besides only older smokers have health problems. Right? Think again. Smoking starts damaging your body the moment you inhale for the first time. While you know it affects your health and your breathing as you age, did you know there was a link between smoking and decreased bone density or bone health?
Nicotine and toxins in cigarette smoke damage your cells and organs, and upset the hormones that keep your bones healthy and strong. Cigarette smoke produces free radicals–organic molecules responsible for aging–which attach themselves to other molecules and cause damage throughout the body. The nicotine and free radicals “kill the osteoblasts — the bone-making cells,” according to an osteoporosis specialist at Temple University Health System in Philadelphia. Smoking also increases levels of a hormone called cortisol, which can lead to bone loss, and prevents the hormone calcitonin (which helps build bones) from working.
Blood vessels are also damaged by smoking. Bone fractures don’t heal well because they don’t receive the necessary supply of oxygen-rich blood. Nerve damage in the lower extremities may also be affected by the poor circulation and cause numbness, which could result in more falls and fractures.
Smoking during the peak bone development time of adolescence to age 30 means less bone and a higher chance of developing osteoporosis later. The disease can affect both men and women, and many are not aware they have osteoporosis until they break a bone. Not starting a smoking habit will help keep your bones healthy and allow you to build bone mass. If you are a smoker, giving up the habit, even if it is a few cigarettes a day or week, can help you maintain a strong, healthy body and prevent fractures as you get older. It’s never too late to get healthy.
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