Smoking Doubles Women’s Risk of Sudden Cardiac Death

Women who smoke just a few cigarettes a day may want to crush that habit permanently. A comprehensive study shows that even those who smoke less than 14 cigarettes daily are significantly more likely to suffer sudden cardiac death.

Long-term smokers may face a greater risk, according to a news release from the American Heart Association.

The good news is that quitting smoking reduces and eventually eliminates the risk of sudden cardiac death, which can happen minutes after an abrupt loss of heart function.

“Sudden cardiac death is often the first sign of heart disease among women, so lifestyle changes that reduce that risk are particularly important,” said lead author Dr. Roopinder K. Sandhu, a cardiac electrophysiologist at the University of Alberta’s Mazankowski Heart Institute in Canada, in the news release.

“Our study shows that cigarette smoking is an important modifiable risk factor for sudden cardiac death among all women,” Sandhu added. “Quitting smoking before heart disease develops is critical.”

The study’s highlights include:

  • Smoking one to 14 cigarettes daily nearly doubles a woman’s risk of sudden cardiac death.
  • Women with no history of heart disease, cancer or stroke who smoked had 2.5 times the risk of sudden cardiac death compared to healthy women who never smoked.
  • For every five years of continued smoking, the risk increased by 8 percent.
  • Women who quit smoking reduced their risk of sudden cardiac death. If they didn’t have heart disease, their risk was the same as healthy non-smokers within five years.
  • For women with heart disease, the risk of sudden cardiac death dropped to that of a non-smoker with 15 to 20 years after quitting.

The findings come from the Nurses’ Health Study, which has collected biannual health questionnaires from female nurses nationwide since 1976, according to the news release. Researchers examined sudden cardiac death cases among more than 101,000 women in the study.

During the study, 351 participants died from sudden cardiac death.

Source: American Heart Association

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