Smoking Makes Your Bones Brittle. Find Out Why And How To Avoid This.

Bone Health: How Smoking Affects Your Bones - DoctorOnCall

Eating healthy food especially those that are high in vitamin D and calcium, practicing exercises regularly while maintaining an ideal weight are the best ways to maintain your bone health. Other than that, make sure you have a proper posture while sitting, standing and walking. Did you know, quitting smoking is also a way to maintain bone health? Studies have shown that the chemicals in cigarettes will not only have a health effect on the human heart and lungs, but also the bones. This article will unravel the smoking effects on bone health. 

How Does Smoking Affect Your Bone Health?

It is well known that cigarette smoke contains a variety of chemicals that are harmful. The damage is not limited to your lungs, heart, and blood vessels, but your bones too. Here are how smoking affects your bone health. 

  • Smoking restricts the blood flow which reduces the supply of oxygenated blood which provides essential nutrients to the bones, muscles and joints and helps them heal.

  • Smoking affects the body's ability to absorb calcium which leads to lower bone density. Eventually, it makes the bones weaker.

  • The nicotine content in cigarettes slows down the production of bone-forming cells which is very important for the healing process.

  • Smoking can lower the levels of estrogen hormone which is a key component to build and maintain a healthy skeleton. 

The Effect of Smoking on Bone Mass

Several studies from abroad have shown that smoking can cause an imbalance in the bone formation, and at the same time, reduce the bone density. Decreased bone density, over time, will cause the bones to become brittle. This condition is also known as osteoporosis. Cigarette smoke influences bone mass directly through the alteration of osteogenesis and angiogenesis processes, which are responsible for building human bones. Cigarette smoke can also indirectly affect bone mass through other factors including body weight, vitamin D axis, adrenal hormones, sex hormones and increased oxidative stress on bony tissues.

  • Smoking & Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a bone disease that is characterized by reduced bone density which results in fragile bones. Those who suffer from osteoporosis usually lose bone density due to various factors such as not getting enough nutrition, hormonal problems and lack of physical activity. Osteoporosis is common among the elderly, women and Caucasians (white races). However, the disease can occur at any age, gender, and race, if other risk factors for the disease exist. Smoking has been identified as one of the risk factors for osteoporosis since decades ago. Meanwhile, there are other risk factors for this disease, which may include having a family history of osteoporosis, being postmenopausal, prolonged use of certain medications and excessive alcohol intake. Besides, smoking is related to other factors of osteoporosis where smoking habits inhibit optimal nutrients absorption and cause hormonal imbalance. Women who smoke will reach menopause faster and increase the chance of developing osteoporosis. 

The Effect of Smoking on Bone Healing

Smoking can affect the process of bone healing. Bone healing after surgery or trauma is a very crucial process that takes quite a long period of time. For instance, the healing time for the bone of an adult who had a hand fracture (the humerus bone), is about six to eight weeks. Furthermore, the expected recovery time for healing a leg fracture is about twelve weeks. However, if the person is a smoker, then the healing period of the fracture will become longer. Right now, you might be wondering, why is this happening?

The nicotine in cigarette smoke inhibits the growth of cells that are essential for your bone healing. In addition, nicotine can cause blood vessels to become narrower and disrupt the flow of blood which is vital in the process of cell formation for healing purposes. As this happens, the bone tissue which is in the process of healing will lack oxygen and other nutrients, as well as healthy tissue formation. Find out if you're dependent on nicotine with this quiz!

Therefore, this is why doctors prohibit patients with fractures, and especially for patients who are undergoing orthopedic surgery, from smoking. It is for the patients’ health benefits, to prevent the delay of the bone healing process. For example, when a patient has a fracture of the wrist, he should follow the doctor's advice on fracture management so that the bone can heal properly. 

How To Maintain Your Bone Health?

To ensure bone health, here are the things you need to do.

  • Quit Smoking

As described above, smoking habits affect your bone health. So the first thing you need to do is to quit smoking. Smoking not only affects your own health but also others. Quitting smoking not only improves your bone health but in every aspect of your life as well. Get help if you want to quit smoking, now there are various treatments and support that you can find to quit smoking successfully.

  • Eating a Balanced Diet, Especially That Is High in Calcium & Vitamin D

A balanced diet is very important for a healthy body. To maintain good bone health, calcium and vitamin D are essential nutrients for your body. High sources of calcium are found in low-fat dairy products; green vegetables, other foods and beverages that are enriched with calcium. Supplements can also ensure that you get a sufficient amount of calcium every day, especially in people who cannot take direct calcium sources like milk. 

To get a supply of Vitamin D, early morning sunlight exposure is the best source of generating Vitamin D. That is why those who are rarely exposed to sunlight are prone to bone fragility problems. Vitamin D can also be found in foods including soy, eggs, and some types of seafood such as tuna, salmon, shrimp and oyster.

  • Be Active & Exercise Regularly

Physical activity that is performed in the right way is important to maintain healthy bones. A less active body can increase the risk of brittle bone disease or osteoporosis. The exercise that bears weight and endurance is one of the best exercises to build your bone strength. The recommended physical activities are walking and stair-climbing. You are also advised to practice light exercise or low-impact activities regularly, which is suggested about three times a week.

  • Maintaining Weight

You are also advised to constantly monitor and maintain your weight so that it is in the normal weight category. To get a normal weight, you need to know the ideal weight that matches your body height. You can find out by making simple calculations based on your Body Mass Index (BMI). Other efforts including a balanced diet and consistent exercise activities are very important to achieve the ideal weight. Being overweight puts pressure on your bones and can lead to long-term injuries.


  • Avoid Excessive Alcohol Intake


Excessive alcohol intake can disrupt the balance of calcium in your body. Besides, alcohol also can affect the hormones that are protecting your bones, and reduce the vitamins needed to absorb calcium in your body. 

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