Even light smoking poses cardiac dangers for women

By Sheryl Kay • Published: March 27th, 2013
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

There’s nothing positive or fashionable about smoking cigarettes, but many people think that light smoking comes with little risk.

But according to the research, this just isn’t true … especially for women. Even women who smoke just one cigarette a day are more at risk for cardiac problems than those who don’t light up.

Past studies have shown that cigarette smoking is a definite risk factor for unexpected cardiac death, but until now, the extent of these risks among apparently healthy women was an unknown.

A large study recently published in the American Heart Association’s journal, Circulation: Arrhythmia and Electrophysiology tracked the health of more than 100,000 U.S. nurses, ages 30 to 55, over a 30-year period. Three hundred-and-fifty-one of these women died of sudden cardiac death during the study.

When the investigators accounted for other risk factors like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and family history of heart disease, they found that those who smoked were more than twice as likely to die suddenly as those who never smoked, and for every five years of continued smoking, that risk rose 8 percent.

Even for light smokers, there was a two-fold increase in risk of sudden cardiac death.

But the study also gave hope to those who quit, with results showing that for those who stopped smoking for 20 years or more, the risk of sudden cardiac death fell to that of someone who had never smoked at all.

The researchers say these findings are important because they show that smoking just a couple of cigarettes a day could still seriously affect someone’s future health by increasing the risk of sudden cardiac death. Women shouldn’t delay quitting until the occurrence of heart disease but rather preempt that coronary event by giving up cigarettes in the first place.