Sudden cardiac death is sudden, spontaneous fatality caused by heart failure. This condition is responsible for approximately 400,000 U.S. deaths per year, and for many women it’s the first indication of heart disease.
A new study from the University of Alberta has found that smoking cigarettes more than doubles a woman’s risk of sudden cardiac death, and the risk of heart failure even higher among heavy and lifetime smokers.
The study monitored the impact of smoking and butting out on the risk of sudden cardiac death among 101,018 women over a period of 30-years. During that time:
- 351 cases of sudden cardiac death occurred
- The risk of sudden cardiac death was amplified by 8-percent for every five years a woman smoked
- Those women who smoked 25 cigarettes a day or more heightened their sudden cardiac death risk by three times—compared to those who didn’t smoke
- Women who smoked for 35 years or more were 2.5 times higher for risk of sudden cardiac death than those women who never smoked
However, the good news is that the study also revealed that quitting smoking can reduce the risk of cardiac death over the long term—and the women who quit found themselves without any symptoms of heart disease within 5-years time.
“Even with a very small amount, one to 14 cigarettes per day, women’s risk of sudden cardiac death was almost two-fold higher compared to women who did not smoke… [but] the important thing is that this risk can be eliminated after smoking cessation,” says researcher Roopinder Sandhu, MD, MPH, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Alberta, in Alberta, Canada.
Sandhu points to two primary factors when it comes to cigarettes causing sudden cardiac death:
- Nicotine—which can cause irregular heartbeat, and
- Cigarette smoke—which can scar the heart tissue