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Women's Health

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Why Cigarettes are a Woman's Worst Enemy

Here are some compelling reasons to quit smoking.

Smoking Ages You

You've probably noticed that smokers develop wrinkles earlier than nonsmokers. What often goes unnoticed is that smoking hastens menopause by one to two years. "Nicotine interferes with the blood supply to the ovary, and if you decrease blood supply to any organ, you decrease its function," says Sandra Carson, M.D., professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. Estrogen is produced in the ovaries, which "could explain why smoking brings on earlier menopause," Carson says. Cigarettes can lead to early osteoporosis, too, adds Carson: many studies have shown smoking significantly reduces bone mineral density.

Cigarettes Go to Your Heart

A woman who smokes is two to six times more likely to have a heart attack than one who doesn't, according to the National Institutes of Health. One to four cigarettes a day is enough to double your risk of heart disease, says the ACOG. And a Finnish study published in the July 1998 British Medical Journal found that female smokers are twice as likely to have a heart attack after age 65 as male smokers. Researchers believe estrogen -- which smoking apparently inhibits -- helps protect women against heart disease.

And remember that your behavior sets an example for your daughter or any girl in your life. "The rate of high school girls who are smoking is now on par with that of boys," says Wanda Jones, a spokeswoman for the National Women's Health Information Center. "This is not the kind of equality for women our mothers and grandmothers envisioned."

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