Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Alarming Connection between Arthritis and Smoking

Shocking news, coinciding with Arthritis Awareness Month, has just been released to the public. In mid-April, results of a groundbreaking study solidified and quantified the connection between smoking and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). 

While scientists have long known of apparent links between smoking and an increased risk of arthritis, this new Swedish study, published in the online journal Arthritis Research & Therapy, tells us specifically how much smoking leads to increasing the risk of rheumatoid arthritis.  It identifies how smoking intensity, smoking duration, and the cessation of smoking affects your arthritis risk.

Two of the most alarming bytes from the study:
  • A little smoking is all it takes:  If you are one of those who had already cut back on smoking, hoping to dodge the rheumatoid arthritis bullet, the study concluded that even light cigarette smokers experience a heightened risk of rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Quit smoking and the risk goes down but does not disappear. Yes, you can reduce your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis from smoking by quitting the habit, but the study clearly shows that smoking cessation (stopping smoking) does not remove the risk entirely. The key takeaway: don’t even start smoking to be safe.
Crushing cigarettes with hand

And this was no lightweight review:

How researchers reached their conclusions

The in-depth study, from the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, analyzed data from more than 34,000 women, ranging in age from 54 to 89, for seven straight years, from 2003 through 2010.  The researchers examined the effect of smoking using three measures:
  • Smoking intensity (how many cigarettes a day)
  • Smoking duration (how many years the participants smoked)
  • Smoking cessation (odds of developing rheumatoid arthritis even after quitting the habit)
The study analyzed all three of these factors and their influence on the risk of the women developing rheumatoid arthritis.  What they found:
  1. Those who smoked one-to-seven cigarettes daily were significantly more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis than those who had never smoked – more than a twofold greater risk.
  2. Longer smoking duration created a significant increase in risk of developing arthritis. 
  3. The most surprising discovery: The risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis was significantly elevated even 15 years after smokers had quit smoking, compared with those who were never smokers.
The study authors state that the risk of rheumatoid arthritis decreased over time after smoking cessation, but that the risk was still statistically significantly higher than compared to those who had never been smokers.

The most significant takeaway of the study is a message that parents can share with their children before they are tempted to start smoking – that the increased risk of future rheumatoid arthritis development even among former smokers is another reason to not to start smoking.

Rheumatoid arthritis hands

Arthritis Awareness Month

Did you know that arthritis is the nation’s leading cause of disability?  According to the Arthritis Foundation, there are 50 million Americans today suffering from arthritis: a chronic, progressive disease causing inflammation in the joints.  Many more are at risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.

That’s why the Arthritis Foundation founded National Arthritis Awareness Month, to draw attention to, and raise awareness of, this national health problem.  Their goal: to rally the nation to take action against arthritis.

How you can help

The following links provide information to help you get involved in arthritis prevention, get help with your arthritic conditions, get rheumatoid arthritis information, and learn the latest news on arthritis.
With this information, you can make this May a month of rheumatoid arthritis relief, arthritis education, and arthritis prevention. 
Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your comment, Stephen! We have posted that great infographic on our Facebook,
    We are always happy to further increase awareness of these important health issues.