Women Smokers and Heart Disease Risk
Smoking is the most preventable cause of early death in United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that smoking-related diseases cause the deaths of about 174,000 women each year. Women smokers who die of a smoking-related disease lose, on average, 14 years of potential life.
In 2005, more than 20 million American women smoked (17.4% compared to 22.3% of men). Although rates of smoking had been declining, this decrease in smoking rates appears to be stalling.
Smoking is a major cause of heart disease among women:
- Cigarette smoking has been associated with sudden cardiac death of all types in women.
- Women who smoke have an increased risk for stroke (blood clot in one of the arteries in the brain) and hemorrhage (bleeding in the area surrounding the brain).
- Women who smoke have an increased risk for hardening of the blood vessels (atherosclerosis).
- Women who smoke and use oral contraceptives (birth control pills) greatly increase their risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) and stroke compared with nonsmoking women who use oral contraceptives.
- Women who started smoking before the age of 15 are more likely to suffer a heart attack or die from heart disease than nonsmokers.
- Risk increases with the number of cigarettes smoked and the duration of smoking.
- Smoking low-tar or low-nicotine cigarettes rather than regular cigarettes appears to have no effect on reducing the risk for CHD.
- Secondhand smoke increases risk of heart disease by 25% in women who do not smoke.
Women who stop smoking greatly reduce their risk of dying prematurely. Most importantly, quitting smoking is beneficial at all ages:
- Risk of CHD is cut by one-third within two years of smoking cessation.
- After 10 to 14 cigarette-free years, heart disease risk is the same as that of a woman who never smoked.
- Former smokers have the same stroke risk as nonsmokers after 5 to 15 smoke-free years.
Lifestyle modifications recommended for all women to help reduce their risk for heart disease include:
- Stop smoking cigarettes.
- Get 30 minutes of physical activity most days.
- Eat a heart-healthy diet.
- Maintain or reduce body weight.
- Get treated for depression.
Women can calculate their risk for heart disease by taking the Women’s Heart Disease Risk Quiz (Women’s Heart Foundation).
For More Information:
- African American Smokers and Heart Disease Risk
- Smoking Increases Risk of Heart Disease
- The Health Consequences of Smoking
For more information:
Go to the Smoking and Tobacco health topic.