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Secondhand Smoke in Childhood Linked to Heart Attacks & Strokes Later in Life

Posted Apr 10 2014 10:07pm

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that tobacco smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals, of which 250 are known to be harmful to human health and 50 of which have been identified as cancer-causing.  WHO estimates that while 6 million people die from smoking every year, another 600,000 may die as a result of exposure to other people’s smoke – secondhand or passive smoking.  The burden of secondhand smoke is particularly harmful to children.  Seana Gall, from University of Tasmania (Australia), and colleagues analyzed data collected on 2,401 subjects enrolled in the Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study (Finland) and 1,375 participants enrolled in the Childhood Determinants of Adult Health (Australia).   Subjects were surveyed about their parents' smoking habits, and ultrasound imaging was utilized to measure the thickness of the children's artery walls (carotid intima-media thickness, IMT) once they had reached adulthood – up to 25 years later.  The researchers found that the carotid IMT in adulthood was 0.015 millimeters thicker in those exposed to both parents smoking than in those whose parents did not smoke, which the team equates as: “Having both parents smoke was associated with vascular age 3.3 years greater at follow-up than having neither parent smoke.” With the data suggesting: “the pervasive effect of exposure to parental smoking on children's vascular health up to 25 years later,” the study authors urge that: “There must be continued efforts to reduce smoking among adults to protect young people and to reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease across the population.”

Gall S, Huynh QL, Magnussen CG, Juonala M, Viikari JS, Kahonen M, Dwyer T, Raitakari OT, Venn A. “Exposure to parental smoking in childhood or adolescence is associated with increased carotid intima-media thickness in young adults: evidence from the Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns study and the Childhood Determinants of Adult Health Study.”  Eur Heart J. 2014 Mar 4.

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