Passive smoking increases arteriosclerosis

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Passive smoking increases arteriosclerosis
Passive smoking increases arteriosclerosis

Sins of the Past

One of the largest studies on the link between atherosclerosis and smoking brought bad news for ex-smokers: even those who have quit smoking apparently still have to fear long-term effects. An American study involving over 10,000 participants showed that the development of atherosclerosis was strongly related to the subject's previous cigarette consumption and current status as a smoker or non-smoker (Journal of the American Medical Association, January 13, 1998 issue).

George Howard, a professor at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, believes that the average number of cigarettes smoked per day over the course of a year is the key figure: “The observations show that it perhaps there is a cumulative effect of smoking on atherosclerosis; this could be proportional to lifetime cigarette consumption and possibly irreversible.“

Even passive smokers are not spared. Individuals living in close contact with smokers-at least one hour of “smoke” per week-show a 20 percent higher rate of atherosclerosis than nonsmokers without such exposure.

The study with subjects aged 45 to 65 ran for three years. During this period, smokers' artery walls thickened by an average of 41 microns, and ex-smokers who were still regularly exposed to smoke by 39.6 microns. For former smokers who consistently avoided the smoke afterwards, it was 33.2 microns. Passive smokers still had to live with a thickening of 32.5 micrometers, while absolute non-smokers had their vein walls thickened by an average of just 27 micrometers.

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