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Chronological ageing vs. biological ageing – not the same thing.

Chronological age is how old you are: the number of birthdays you’ve celebrated. Biological age is ‘ageing’ at the cellular level. An individual may be 70 years in chronological age, but due to healthy eating, lifestyle, weight, regular exercise, and disease-free – mental and physical chronological age can be that of someone decades younger.

Nicotine’s impact on ageing:

US researchers studied if there was any biological age differences between nicotine smokers and life-long non-smokers by analysing the blood samples of nearly 150,000 American adults.

Although numerous variables were at play (1) the biological age of female smokers was found to be double their chronological age compared to non-smokers.

The biological age of male smokers was shown to be 1.5 times greater than chronological age compared to non-smokers.

Whatever the nicotine delivery method (2), the effects of smoking will often result in deep facial wrinkles generally, but particularly between the eyebrows, around the eyes, mouth and lips. One’s skin can exhibit a yellow tinge with a leathery, hard appearance. This is partly due to smoking’s destructive effects on Vitamin C, B-group vitamins, skin collagen and elastin fibres.

Another reason for the appearance of premature ageing in the skin of smokers is significant changes in their oxygen: carbon dioxide blood ratios. Commercially purchased cigarettes contain various kinds of chemicals and gases, but most toxic of all for the circulatory system is carbon monoxide (CO2).

CO2 decreases blood oxygen saturation (SpO2) by reducing the ability of haemoglobin to deliver oxygen to crucial organs, tissues and cells. CO2 has a 250 times greater binding affinity with red blood cells (RBC) than does oxygen in the lungs.

Nicotine adversely influences hormonal function – particularly the adrenal glands – by inhibiting the enzyme 11-beta-hydroxylase, which is essential in the production of the vital hormone DHEA (3).

Research suggests there is a direct correlation between low DHEA and the onset of diseases such as cancer, heart disease, allergies, diabetes, autoimmune conditions, and osteoporosis.

This is a potential future health issue for young people as DHEA production peaks around 20-25 years of age.  Because Cortisol has an inverse relationship with DHEA, ie: when Cortisol is elevated DHEA levels are low, smokers may experience chronic anxiety, sleep disturbance or other symptoms of adrenal insufficiency.

The effects of smoking on the hair:

Apart from the many other health issues that smoking can generate, cigarette smoking adversely effects scalp hair quality and growth by vasoconstricting and progressively obliterating the micro-capillary network to the hair bulb. It’s also believed toxic chemicals contained in cigarette smoke interfere with matrix cell DNA synthesis of the developing hair.

Smoking is a social addiction that can potentially rob you of decades of life; predispose you to respiratory and cardiac invalidity and cause you to die a slow and painful death. With determination (4) it is arguably the simplest risk factor to eliminate in one’s health.

Copyright Anthony Pearce 2022

1. Long-term exposure to passive smoking, certain occupations and genetic factors.

2. Cigarettes, vaping, hookah shisha or ‘pipe and bottle; homemade devices.

3. Dehydro-epiandrosterone: weakest, most abundant male hormone (termed: androgen) produced by the adrenal glands in both men and women. DHEA is also considered a ‘marker for adrenal reserves’.

4. In Australia there are many state and federal government ‘Quit’ initiatives, as well as commercially available nicotine replacement aids to assist addicted smokers to stop smoking.


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