Harvard Heart Letter

Smoking raises the risk of sudden death in women

No matter how few cigarettes a woman smokes, the habit raises her risk of a fatal heart event. Researchers examined the smoking habits and rate of sudden death among the 101,000 initially healthy women enrolled in the Nurses' Health Study since 1980. As published in Circulation: Arrhythmia & Electrophysiology, light-to-moderate smokers (one to 14 cigarettes daily) had nearly double the risk of dying suddenly from heart disease as nonsmokers. For every five years a woman continued to smoke, her risk of sudden death rose by 8%. Among women with heart disease who quit smoking, the risk of sudden cardiac death began to fall and reached that of a nonsmoker in 15 to 20 years. In women without heart disease, the extra risk disappeared in only five years.

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