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Heart Disease Health Center

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A Few Whiffs of Smoke May Harm Your Heart

Low Levels of Smoke Raise Risk of Dying From Heart Disease, Study Shows

Secondhand Smoke Raises Risk By 20% continued...

The findings, which appear in the journal Circulation, underscore the importance of avoiding secondhand smoke, and could have big implications for public policies on air quality. Study authors say the findings also deliver an important message for smokers:

“A critical finding of our study is that smoking is unhealthy even at small amounts,” Pope said. “Reducing the amount one smokes does some good, but the biggest benefits come from stopping completely.”

Among smokers, the increases in heart disease-related death risk were as follows:

  • Three or less cigarettes a day: 64% increased risk
  • Half pack (about 8-12 cigarettes daily): 79% increased risk
  • Full pack (about 18-22 cigarettes daily): nearly 100% increased risk

In an accompanying editorial, Annette Peters, PhD, from the German Research Center for Environmental Health, Institute of Epidemiology, writes that the findings from this study and another on carbon monoxide exposure “highlight the consistently emerging evidence that both indoor and outdoor air quality is a modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular disease.” She believes that many worldwide policy makers still underestimate the health risks associated with low-dose smoking, secondhand smoke, and air pollution.

Carbon monoxide emissions from traffic create dirty, smoggy air pollution. Researchers have also found that breathing in such air for even short periods of time -- at levels deemed safe by current outdoor air quality standards -- increases an older adult’s chances of being admitted to the hospital for heart problems.

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