-- Robert Preidt
THURSDAY, March 7 (HealthDay News) -- The more you're exposed to
secondhand tobacco smoke, the more likely you are to develop early
signs of heart disease, a new study indicates.
The findings suggest that exposure to secondhand smoke may be
more dangerous than previously thought, according to the
For the study, the investigators looked at nearly 3,100 healthy
people, aged 40 to 80, who had never smoked and found that 26
percent of those exposed to varying levels of secondhand smoke --
as an adult or child, at work or at home -- had signs of coronary
artery calcification, compared to 18.5 percent of the general
Those who reported higher levels of secondhand smoke exposure
had the greatest evidence of calcification, a build-up of calcium
in the artery walls.
After taking other heart risk factors into account, the
researchers concluded that people exposed to low, moderate or high
levels of secondhand smoke were 50, 60 and 90 percent,
respectively, more likely to have evidence of calcification than
those who had minimal exposure.
The health effects of secondhand smoke on coronary artery
calcification remained whether the exposure was during childhood or
adulthood, the results showed. The study findings are scheduled for
presentation Thursday at the annual meeting of the American College
of Cardiology (ACC), in San Francisco.
"This research provides additional evidence that secondhand smoke is harmful and may be even more dangerous than we previously thought," study author Dr. Harvey Hecht, associate director of cardiac imaging and professor of medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, said in an ACC news release.
"We actually found the risk of secondhand smoke exposure to be an equivalent or stronger risk factor [for coronary artery calcification] than other well-established ones such as high cholesterol, hypertension and diabetes. Passive exposure to smoke seems to independently predict both the likelihood and extent of [calcification]," Hecht added.
The findings provide yet more evidence of the need for
enforceable public smoking bans and other measures to protect
people from secondhand smoke, he said.
"Tobacco smoke can damage the coronary arteries of nonsmokers through many different ways, which can lead to plaque formation and then to heart attacks, so this lends more [credence] to enforcing smoking bans," Hecht noted in the news release.
To aid prevention of heart disease, discussion of secondhand
smoke exposure should be included as a routine part of medical
exams, he suggested.
While the study found an association between exposure to
secondhand smoke and calcium build up in coronary arteries, it did
not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
The data and conclusions of research presented at medical
meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a
peer-reviewed medical journal.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more
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