A Few Whiffs of Smoke May Harm Your Heart
Low Levels of Smoke Raise Risk of Dying From Heart Disease, Study Shows
WebMD News Archive
Aug. 31, 2009 -- Just a few whiffs of tobacco smoke or dirty air can have a
profound negative impact on your heart’s health.
Study results released today by the American Heart Association suggest that
exposure to even a small amount of smoke -- whether it’s from your own
cigarette or someone else’s -- greatly increases your risk of dying from
cardiovascular disease. The same goes for breathing in air polluted with carbon
“It doesn’t require extreme exposure to have significant
cardiovascular effects. Even passive exposures to ambient air pollution and
secondhand smoke contribute to significant increases in cardiovascular
mortality,” study author C. Arden Pope III, PhD, says in a statement.
Researchers from Brigham Young University analyzed data from more than 1
million adults, noting their smoking habits and exposure to tiny, toxic
particles (fine particulate matter) from secondhand smoke and air pollution.
They determined the relative risks of cardiovascular-related death from
different amounts of cigarette smoking and compared them to the dangers of
inhaling various levels of secondhand smoke and polluted air. They also took
into consideration other known heart disease risk factors, such as diet and
body mass index.
Previous studies have shown that cigarette smoking is a leading contributor
to cardiovascular disease and related events, such as heart attacks and
strokes. Active smoking fills the lungs with large amounts of fine particulate
matter. These particles can go deep within the lungs, causing respiratory
problems. They can also lead to the development of clogged arteries
Secondhand Smoke Raises Risk By 20%
The new study provides further evidence that just being near someone who
smokes (secondhand smoke) significantly increases your risk for heart attacks
and strokes. Breathing in levels of smoke far less than what equals one
cigarette a day increases your risk of cardiovascular disease by about 20% to
30%, compared to people who are not exposed, the researchers found. They say
that even low levels of smoke can prompt dangerous biological changes -- such
as inflammation and increased platelet activity -- which make heart attacks
Researchers noted the steepest increase in risk in those who had relatively
low levels of smoke exposure. In other words, breathing in even small amounts
of smoke can have profoundly deleterious effects on health. But those exposed
to low levels are not the only ones that should worry -- the risk increases
further the more smoke one inhales.