Smoking Doubles Women’s Sudden Death Risk
Quitting Cuts Risk
Researchers also found quitting smoking had different effects on women’s sudden death risk depending on their heart disease status.
The risk of sudden cardiac death decreased almost immediately among women who quit smoking with no history of heart disease.
But this risk reduction was delayed among women who already had heart disease and quit smoking. For these women, the risk of sudden cardiac death dropped to that of non-smokers about 15-20 years after smoking cessation.
Sandhu says that may be because nicotine has both short- and long-term negative effects on the heart.
First, nicotine is thought to have some immediate effects that can lead to life-threatening irregular heartbeats and sudden cardiac death.
Second, cigarette smoke causes scarring of the heart tissue. This effect may persist long after quitting and contribute to the risk of sudden cardiac death.
“Cigarette smoking is an important modifiable risk factor for sudden cardiac death for women both with and without heart disease,” Sandhu says. “Women shouldn’t wait until the development of heart disease to quit.”