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Even 'light smoking' doubles sudden heart death risk in women

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
December 12th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Smoking has never been considered healthy. So - what if you just smoke once a day, if that? No dice, a new study says. Women, even those less than 35 years of age and smoke only once a day see their chance of dying from a sudden heart attack double.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The research followed the health of 101,000 U.S. nurses over three decades. Researchers found that light-to-moderate smokers were twice as likely to die of sudden heart problems as those who had never smoked.

The one bright side is that those who quit smoking saw their risk begin to go back down within years, a journal of the American Heart Association reports.

In the study, there were 315 sudden cardiac deaths, where the heart unexpectedly stops working. For those aged 35 or younger, this is usually because of a heart condition that runs in the family.

People older than 35 years of age -- as most of the nurses in the study were, this can become the first sign of coronary heart disease, where the heart's arteries become blocked by fatty deposits.

Of the 315 sudden deaths in the study, 75 were among current smokers, 148 were among recent or past smokers and 128 occurred in people who had never smoked.

After taking into account other heart risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and family history of heart disease, Dr. Roopinder Sandhu and colleagues found the women who smoked were twice as likely to die suddenly even if they smoked "light-to-moderate" amounts, estimated from one to 14 cigarettes daily.

For every five years of continued smoking, the risk went up by eight percent. Women who quit saw their risk fall to that of someone who had never smoked, after 20 years of cessation.

"What this study really tells women is how important it is to stop smoking," Sandhu, with the University of Alberta, Canada says. "The benefits in terms of sudden cardiac death reduction are there for all women, not just those with established heart disease.

"It can be difficult to quit. It needs to be a long-term goal. It's not always easily achievable and it may take more than one attempt."

"This study shows that smoking just a couple of cigarettes a day could still seriously affect your future health," Ellen Mason, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation says.

"As we approach the new year, many of us will be making resolutions and giving up smoking will be top of the list for lots of people.

"If you're thinking of quitting and need a nudge, this research adds to the wealth of evidence that stopping smoking is the single best thing you can do for your heart health."

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