We know that smoking causes a wide range of diseases, but consider this a stop sign: New research suggests that smokers with low chest muscle mass face a higher risk of death.
If you’re not in good physical condition and have weak muscles, this would be a good time to work on that.
The Centers For Disease Control report that cigarette smoking is the number one cause of preventable disease and death in the United States.
Smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths every single year.
Despite this, around 36.5 million U.S. individuals continue to smoke, and another 16 million live with a disease related to smoking.
This new study released by the American Thoracic Society (ATS) set out to examine the hypothesis that a lower chest muscle mass correlates with higher mortality in smokers who do not have a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
The findings were presented at the American Thoracic Society’s 2017 conference.
The lead author, Dr. Alejandro A. Diaz, from Harvard University in Cambridge, MA, explains the motivation for the research, saying,
“Prior studies found that smoking resulted in muscle damage and loss of muscle, even in so-called healthy smokers. But whether that loss of muscle was associated with higher death rates was not known.”
- A person with COPD will find it difficult to let the air out of their lungs. This airflow obstruction may cause shortness of breath or tiredness, as the lungs work harder to breathe.
Whether the smoker has COPD or not, smokers who have less chest muscle are more likely to die prematurely.
Diaz and his team examined computed tomography (CT) scans from almost 7,000 smokers, with an average age of 60.
- 55 % of the participants had COPD.
The researchers also used the scans to measure the chest and the spine of the participants.
- The participants were clinically followed for 5 years, during which 653 of the patients died.
Adjustments to the study were made for a variety of risk factors that could potentially affect the health of the muscles and the risk of mortality.
➡ Smoking habits
➡ Comorbidities (the simultaneous presence of two chronic diseases or conditions in a patient).
➡ The severity of their COPD, if they shared that diagnosis
A finding of low chest muscle mass was linked to mortality in smokers with and without COPD.
Participants were divided according to the scans of their chest and spine.
➡ The research revealed that smokers with the lowest amount of chest muscle mass had a 120 % higher chance of dying prematurely, compared with smokers with the best chest muscle mass.
➡ In addition, the team found that the death risk was even greater for those patients with less chest muscle mass, but who did not have COPD.
Although COPD patients were overall more likely to die, smokers with COPD had other risk factors such as respiratory failure, making the low chest muscle mass less important.
Dr. Diaz recommends that smokers who have a CT scan to screen for lung cancer, also be assessed for chest muscle mass.
Having this information may help clinicians identify those at greatest risk of dying from smoking.