Heart Attack Rates Would Plunge Without Secondhand Smoke

Getting rid of secondhand smoke could reduce the number of heart-disease related deaths in America by more than 500,000 over the next 25 years.

Getting rid of secondhand smoke could reduce the number of heart-disease related deaths in America by more than 500,000 over the next 25 years, reported scientists at the University of California, San Francisco, in May at the American Heart Association’s 7th Scientific Forum on Quality of Care and Outcomes Research in Washington, D.C.*

Analyzing data from several major government-sponsored studies, including the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and the Framingham Heart Study, Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo and colleagues at UCSF estimated that passive smoking is responsible, each year, for about 32,400 heart attacks and about 21,000 heart-disease related deaths.

The key message, the UCSF scientist told attendees at the AHA conference, is that the dangers of passive smoking are very real. A nationwide passive smoking ban, they concluded, “would have a dramatic effect.”

Helping Loved Ones Quit

Have a family member, friend, or co-worker who smokes? It’s never easy broaching the subject of quitting smoking. Keep it positive, recommends Dr. Barbara Udell, “Lifestyle Coach” and smoking cessation counselor.

You might, Dr. Udell suggests, give them “When Smokers Quit,” prepared by the American Cancer Society. In just a few sentences, “When Smokers Quit” does a beautiful job of listing the many wonderful things that happen when you quit smoking.

When Smokers Quit

Just 20 minutes after you have smoked a cigarette, your body begins an ongoing series of beneficial changes:

20 minutes: Blood pressure drops to normal. Pulse rate drops to normal. Temperature of hands and feet increases to normal.

8 hours: Carbon monoxide level drops to normal. Oxygen level in blood increases to normal.

24 hours: Chance of heart attack decreases.

48 hours: Nerve endings start re-growing. Ability to smell and taste is enhanced. Walking becomes easier.

72 hours: Bronchial tubes relax, making breathing easier. Lung capacity increases.

2 weeks to 3 months: Circulation improves. Walking becomes easier. Lung function increases up to 30 percent.

1 to 9 months: Coughing, sinus congestion, fatigue, and shortness of breath decrease. Cilia re-grow in lungs, increasing ability to handle mucus, clean the lungs, and reduce infection.

1 year: Risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker.

5 years: Lung cancer death rate for the average ex-smoker (one pack a day) decreases from 137 per 100,000 people to 72 per 100,000.

10 years: Lung cancer death rate for the average ex-smoker drops to 12 deaths per 100,000, which is almost the rate of nonsmokers. Pre-cancerous cells are replaced. Other concerns, such as cancers of the mouth, larynx, esophagus, bladder, kidney and pancreas, decrease. (There are 30 chemicals in tobacco smoke that cause cancer.)

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