A study recently published in the Annals of American Thoracic Society had some interesting findings regarding the impact of smoking on bone density and fractures. Researchers studied over 3,000 current and former smokers between 45 and 80 years old. All participants had smoked an average of a pack a day every day for at least 10 years.

The Link Between Smoking and Bone Density

The study found that the male smokers were more likely to suffer from osteoporosis and vertebrae fractures than their female counterparts. They also determined that a history of smoking as well as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (commonly known as COPD) were linked to low bone density in participants of both genders. COPD, as many of our readers may know, is the disease that killed Leonard Nimoy earlier this year. The actor said that he had quit smoking 30 years ago. However, as he told his Twitter followers last year, it was “[n]ot soon enough.”

Men are less likely to be diagnosed early with osteoporosis than women are. That’s because medical guidelines don’t recommend bone-density screenings for men, even if they have a history of smoking or COPD. It’s still considered a condition that affects mostly menopausal and post-menopausal women. However, Florida orthopedic surgeons and physical therapists can attest to the fact that men also suffer from this problem.

However, one of the study’s authors noted, “The growing use of CT scans to screen heavy smokers for lung cancer may provide an opportunity to use the same scans for bone density screening in this high-risk population.” She also recommended that both current and former smokers get bone density screenings regardless of their gender. Early detection and treatment of bone disease, she noted, “may prevent fractures, improve quality of life and reduce health care costs.”

The Study’s Findings

The study was conducted by researchers from National Jewish Health, which is the country’s leading respiratory hospital, and other institutions. It looked at the correlation between past smoking and low bone density. Its findings included the following:

  • Each additional pack-year of smoking (twenty cigarettes per day for a year) increased the chances of low bone density by 0.4 percent.
  • Participants with normal bone density had smoked for just under 10 pack-years than those found to have low bone density.
  • 60 percent of participants with fractured vertebrae were male.
  • 55 percent of participants with low bone density were male.
  • 84 percent of participants of both genders with severe COPD had low bone density.

If you’re in your 40s or older and have a history of smoking, it’s wise to talk to your doctor about having a bone density test. If you are found to have low bone density, there are treatments that can improve it and lower the increasing risk of fracture that we all have as we get older.

Bone density tests are just one diagnostic tool that the orthopedic surgeons at Southeast Orthopedic Specialists use to help ensure that we provide our patients with the best, least-invasive tests possible. Fill out our online appointment request form or call us today to schedule an appointment with one of our Florida orthopedic specialists today.

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