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Smoking Even One Cigarette a Day May Double Risk of Sudden Death in Women

Update Date: Dec 13, 2012 06:01 AM EST

So you may be telling yourself that not completely quitting on smoking and cutting down to one cigarette a day won't do much harm. But researchers say that even women who smoke as little as one cigarette a day are at high risks of dying suddenly from heart attack and other heart problems.

According to Canadian researchers, the risk for these women double when compared to women who don't smoke at all and the risk is particularly high for long-term smokers. However, the threat can be reversed in five years if women quit smoking completely.

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"Sudden cardiac death is often the first sign of heart disease among women, so lifestyle changes that reduce the risk are particularly important. Our study shows that cigarette smoking is an important modifiable risk factor for sudden cardiac death among all women. Quitting smoking before heart disease develops is critical," Roopinder Sandhu, the study's lead author and a cardiac electrophysiologist at the University of Alberta's Mazankowski Heart Institute in Edmonton, Alberta, was quoted as saying by Mail Online.

For the study, researchers investigated into the causes of sudden deaths within minutes of a heart attack and rhythm abnormalities among more than 101,000 healthy women. They had records of these women since 1980 and a follow-up of 30 years. The participants were aged between 30 and 55 years in the beginning of the study.

Most of the smokers on an average reported that they started smoking during their teenage years.

Over the course of the study, 351 women died of sudden cardiac death and the findings of the study revealed that even women who smoked one to 14 cigarettes a day doubled their risk of sudden cardiac death when compared to non-smokers.

Also, those women smokers with no history of heart disease, cancer, or stroke had about two and a half times more risk of sudden cardiac death. And the risk increased by 8 percent with every 5 years of smoking.

Women with heart disease can reduce their risk to that of a non-smoker, 15-20 years after quitting the habit, and women with no heart disease can do so within five years of quitting cigarettes.

"Cigarette smoking is a known risk factor for sudden cardiac death, but until now, we didn't know how the quantity and duration of smoking affected the risk among apparently healthy women, nor did we have long-term follow-up," Dr. Sandhu said.

"This study shows that smoking just a couple of cigarettes a day could still seriously affect your future health. As we approach the New Year, many of us will be making resolutions and giving up smoking will be top of the list for lots of people. If you're thinking of quitting and need a nudge, this research adds to the wealth of evidence that stopping smoking is the single best thing you can do for your heart health," Ellen Mason, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation (BHF) said, according to the report.

Last year, a U.S. study found that women who smoke raise their chances of developing heart diseases by 25 percent when compared to male smokers.

Also, the toxins in cigarettes seem to affect women more severely than men.

The current study was reported in Circulation: Arrhythmia & Electrophysiology, an American Heart Association journal.

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