Smokers and aging

By • Published: April 22nd, 2009
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Want to look and feel young? Put down that cigarette.

New research published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine says cigarette smoke makes people age faster. Scientists say smoking decreases production of W-R-N protein, which is important for producing and mending D-N-A in our cells.

Forty-five-million adults in the United States smoke cigarettes, and about one in five deaths can be attributed to cigarette smoking, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The habit is most common in men, and in people who live at or below the poverty line.

Researchers studying the lung cells of smokers who had severe emphysema found lower than normal amounts of W-R-N protein. They found the same deficiency in cells grown in a laboratory and then exposed to cigarette smoke.

But smokers aren’t the only ones with low levels.

The problem shows up in people with a rare condition called Werner’s syndrome, a genetic disease that causes those who have it to age rapidly.

People with Werner’s syndrome often develop cancer, diabetes, premature gray hair, osteoporosis and plaque buildup in their arteries. Many die of cancer or heart problems in their forties or fifties.

Like people with Werner’s syndrome, smokers also suffer early deaths because of cancer or cardiac problems.

And if graying temples and brittle bones are a concern, W-R-N levels might be playing a role. It’s something for people worried about maintaining their youthful appearance… and their overall health… to mull over.