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Posted: October 14, 2008

Older Women Risk Artery Disease from Secondhand Smoke

 Older women exposed to secondhand tobacco smoke have been found to be a significantly higher risk of developing peripheral arterial disease, a condition that already affects arteries in the legs of more than 8 million Americans and can lead to amputation in severe cases.

According to a newly published study of older Chinese women, researchers found that secondhand smoke increased the risk of peripheral arterial disease – also known as PAD -- by 67% and the risk of heart disease and stroke by 69% and 56%, respectively.

These latest findings, which are published in the medical journal Circulation, track earlier research that linked secondhand smoke to heart disease and stroke.

Lead author Dr. Yao He, of the Chinese PLA General Hospital in Beijing, and colleagues studied 1,209 women age 60 and older who had never smoked. Of this total, 477 women reported secondhand smoke exposure at home or in the workplace for at least two years during the previous decade.

He and colleagues found that as the amount and duration of secondhand smoke exposure increased, so did the risks of not only PAD but also heart disease and stroke.

As a result, He’s team called for urgent public health measures to prevent, or at least limit, this public health hazard.

PAD affects the arteries outside the heart and brain, and its most common cause is atherosclerosis, which is a hardening and narrowing of the arteries. According to the American Heart Association, the most common symptoms of PAD are cramping, pain or tiredness in the leg or hip muscles while walking or climbing stairs. Typically, this pain goes away with rest and returns when you walk again.

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