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Moderate Smoking Increases Sudden Death Risk in Women

New research published in Circulation: Arrhythmia & Electrophysiology indicates that even light to moderate smoking among women increases their risk of sudden cardiac death, and long-term smokers have an even greater risk. However, lead author Roopinder K. Sandhu, M.D., M.P.H., a cardiac electrophysiologist at the Mazankowski Heart Institute in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, says that smoking cessation significantly reduces this risk.

A sudden cardiac death occurs when the heart stops and abruptly loses its pumping action within a few minutes. It is a major cause of heart-related deaths and accounts for up to 400,000 deaths in the US every year.

For the study, the researchers looked into the data used in the Nurses’ Health Study, which involved more than 100,000 healthy female nurses. They included records which dated back to 30 years, and these consisted of questionnaires completed by nurses from all over the nation.

The results showed that most of the participants were white, with an age range of 30-55 years at the beginning of the study. Many of the smokers started their habit during their late teens. There were 351 records of sudden cardiac death during the study.

The investigators found that women who smoked 1-14 cigarettes daily (considered as light to moderate smokers) were about twice as likely to die to sudden cardiac death compared to nonsmokers. Healthy women (no history of heart disease, stroke or cancer) were two and a half times more likely to die suddenly than healthy nonsmokers. It was estimated that every five years of smoking increased one’s risk by 8 percent. Women who did not have a heart disease immediately reduced their risk for sudden cardiac death after less than five years of smoking cessation, while those who had heart disease cut their risk within 15-20 years of being smoke-free.


American Heart Association. Even moderate smoking associated with sudden death risk in women. ScienceDaily.

Posted in: Cigarette Smoking, News Briefs, Women's Health

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