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Jun 10, 2013

Secondhand Smoke Increases Heart Disease Risk, Study Shows

Exposure to secondhand smoke promotes build-up of calcium deposits in the arteries.

There is no doubt that secondhand smoke is harmful to our health. Secondhand smoke increases risk for cancer, heart disease and other serious health conditions, causing nearly 50,000 deaths each year in the United States. And according to a recent study, the more secondhand smoke you’re exposed to, the greater your risk for heart disease—even if you’ve never been a smoker.

This study, recently published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, included nearly 3,100 people ages 40 to 80 who had never smoked. Subjects completed a thorough questionnaire regarding their exposure to smoke at home and at work, both as a child and an adult, which was used to categorize exposure to secondhand smoke as minimal, low, moderate or high. They also underwent heart scans that can detect build-up of calcium in their arteries, called coronary artery calcification, which slows blood flow and increases heart attack risk.

After analysis, researchers found that patients with more than minimal exposure to secondhand smoke were significantly more likely to have calcium build-up compared to those with minimal exposure. Also, risk for calcification increased with greater exposure to secondhand smoke and those with high exposure were nearly twice as likely to have calcium build-up compared to those with minimal exposure to secondhand smoke.

Although we already know that secondhand smoke is dangerous, these findings help better understand the impact of secondhand smoke on heart health. Not only can secondhand smoke increase cardiovascular risk in nonsmokers, the risk increases as exposure increases. Findings also support efforts to ban smoking in public places, which continue to increase nationwide. However, experts continue to be concerned about the implications of secondhand smoke exposure in the home. It’s estimated that almost 60% of children ages 3 to 11 are exposed to secondhand smoke, and much of this exposure takes place in the home. Although bans on public smoking help to limit exposure in public places, efforts must also be tailored to help minimize exposure to secondhand smoke in the home.

The Cost of Lighting Up

(Click to view infographic)

Read the full article in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology

Questions for You to Consider

  • What smoking cessation aids exist to help smokers quit?

  • A variety of tools exist to help smokers quit. Aside from quitting cold turkey without the use of aids, adults can be prescribed smoking cessation drugs that help to fight nicotine withdrawal and tobacco cravings. There are also various types of nicotine replacement therapy, including patches, inhalers, lozenges, gum and nasal spray that can help wean smokers off of cigarettes.
  • Where is secondhand smoke a problem?
  • Secondhand smoking is extremely harmful to health, increasing risk for cancer, heart disease, and other serious health conditions. The main places where you should be concerned about exposure to secondhand smoke include at work, in public places, at home and in the car. These are the four places where people are most likely to be exposed to secondhand smoke, and it’s important to avoid exposure to secondhand smoke whenever possible.

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