September 22, 2008 / 8:11 PM / 9 years ago

Passive smoking raises artery disease risk in women

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Breathing second-hand tobacco smoke significantly increases the risk of women developing peripheral artery disease (PAD), heart disease and stroke, a study in China has found.

Previous studies have drawn strong links between passive smoking and stroke and heart disease, but this is the first time that an association between second-hand smoke and PAD has been found.

PAD is a circulatory problem in which narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to the limbs, causing pain and increasing the risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke.

The study, published in the journal Circulation, involved 1,209 non-smoking women in Beijing over the age of 60. Of these, 477 were passive smokers either at home or at work.

Researchers documented 431 prevalent cases of coronary heart disease, 172 cases of stroke and 271 cases of PAD during the course of the study and the findings showed consistently that the passive smokers were at far higher risk.

“We found that passive smoking increases risk of heart disease, stroke, and peripheral artery disease,” Frank Hu, senior author of the study and professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, wrote in an email to Reuters.

“Exposure to passive smoking increased heart disease by 69 percent, stroke by 56 percent, and peripheral artery disease risk by 67 percent,” Hu added.

The study defined passive smoking as exposure to another person’s tobacco smoke for at least 15 minutes daily for more than one day every week, for at least two years during the past 10 years.

Women at greatest risk were those who had the highest exposure.

“The longer the duration of the exposure per day to passive smoking, the higher the risk. Also, the higher the amount of the exposure (number of cigarettes per day), the higher the risk,” Hu wrote.

Hu said the public must be made aware of the dangers of passive smoking.

“In China and other Asian countries, most men smoke, but few women smoke. However, most women are exposed to passive or second-hand smoking either at home or at work,” Hu wrote.

“Unfortunately most people are not aware of the health dangers of passive smoking. The findings from this study underscore the importance of public health campaigns to increase awareness about health hazards of passive smoking.”

Reporting by Tan Ee Lyn; Editing by Alex Richardson

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