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The Effects of Smoking on Bone Health

Tips to help you quit smoking.

If You Quit Smoking, Is It Possible to Improve Bone Health?

"Bone building is a slow process, and it takes a long time to fix the damage, so some of the damage may be irreversible," Kaur says. "The heavier the smoker, the longer it will take to recover."

But there is hope. She points to one recent study, published in 2006 in the Journal of Women's Health: After one year without smoking, a group of postmenopausal women had improved bone density, compared with women who continued smoking.

How do you get started if you want to quit smoking?

"I've known people with diehard habits who have quit," says Murray Dabby, LCSW, director of the Atlanta Center for Social Therapy. He's a former smoker who has guided many to nicotine freedom.

"You learn to cut back, phase it out," Dabby tells WebMD. "You find you don't need it as much as you think you do."

The experts advise: Set a quit date and stick to it. Get support. Get and use medication. Be prepared for relapse.

Also important: Decide what you will be doing instead of smoking. It's a critical part of quitting.

Smoking is a habit -- and a statement about your lifestyle, says Dabby, a therapist who has helped many work through addictions.

"Our habits aren't small things," he tells WebMD. "They are part and parcel of how we tend to live our whole lives. If you want to quit smoking, it's a very large decision. It's not just about giving up cigarettes. It's about choosing to live our lives differently. It's about choosing healthy living."

As you prepare to quit smoking, think about your relationship to cigarettes, he advises. Think about the ordinary times you pick up a cigarette -- after a meal, at a break, after sex, first thing in the morning, when you get into your car.

Then, switch things around, Dabby tells WebMD. "Don't smoke at times you ordinarily might. Change up the times. Instead of smoking after a meal, wait 10 or 15 minutes. When you're in the middle of an anxious moment, let that moment be -- wait until you're relaxed before you smoke. Don't light up first thing in the morning; wait an hour."

With this step, you ease out of habits -- yet you're not depriving yourself immediately, says Dabby. "You're learning what the impact is on you. Do you really need a smoke first thing in the morning? You find you don't need a cigarette after a meal -- and if you don't smoke, you can actually taste your dessert."

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Reviewed on April 30, 2009
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Osteoporosis Glossary

  • Bone Mineral Density - A measurement of the amount of calcium and minerals in bone tissue.
  • Calcium - A mineral in (and vital to) your bones. If your body lacks calcium, it takes it from bones.
  • DEXA (dual energy X-ray absorptiometry) - a test used to measure bone mineral density.
  • Osteoporosis - A decrease in bone density, which increase the risk of fractures.
  • Vitamin D - A vitamin that helps your body absorb calcium.
  • View All Terms

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