It is a global acknowledgment that smoking is an overall dangerous and deadly habit. The choice to smoke, as well as secondhand smoke, has killed millions of people per year. There have been numerous studies that link smoking to cancer, heart and lung disease, respiratory problems and other health ailments. Now studies are showing that not only smokers in general are at risk for serious health complications, but female smokers have the highest risk.
Heart Disease in Women Smokers
In Munich, Germany, researchers, including Dr. Morten Grundtvig from the Innlandet Hospital Trust in Lillehammer, Norway, presented information to the European Society of Cardiology reflecting studies that show women who smoke have a higher chance at suffering heart disease and/or cardiac arrest 14 years soon than non-smoking women. Men, on the other hand, the average is only six years from smokers compared to non-smokers. Their study came from 1,784 patients that suffered a first heart attack and were admitted to the hospital. Research conducted showed that women who smoked suffered from cardiac arrest around the age of 66 years, rather than women who did not smoke at the age of 81 years.
Long-standing studies have led doctors to believe that estrogen, a female hormone, protects women from heart disease. It acts as a stimulate in raising good cholesterol and triggering blood vessels to easily relax, henceforth the chances of blockage in the arteries is lessened. However, women that smoke may experience menopause sooner than those that refrain from the habit. Smoking weakens the natural advantage that estrogen provides, making heart disease more likely of a possibility.
Dr. Silvia Priori of the Scientific Institute in Pavia, Italy, while not part of the research, confirms that this intense gap between women who smoke and those who don’t is severe. It also does not help that the consistency and amount of smoking in women does not matter in women.
The Nurses’ Health Study concluded that even an occasional cigarette enjoyed amongst female colleagues or friends heightens the risk of heart disease and death. A study showing this was conducted and featured in the journal Circulation. This study followed 100,000 women over a 30 year period. Women that smoked one to 14 cigarettes per day doubled their chance of suffering from instant cardiac arrest. Women that smoked more than 25 cigarettes per day saw a tripled risk.
While heart disease has always been linked to smoking, sudden death was not. However, the forms of cardiac arrest female smokers are suffering are in fact causing instantaneous mortality. When women smoke, the blood vessels narrow, which enables blood clots to form; however, women that quit smoking see these risks dissipate entirely 15 to 20 years later.
Lung Cancer in Female Smokers
Lung cancer is one of the most infamous health concerns linked to smoking. It is known that regardless of sex, lung cancer is a high risk amongst smokers. Recently, however, Swiss researchers studied 683 patients suffering from lung cancer and found that women were diagnosed with the disease at younger ages than men. Dr. Martin Frueh, a physician at St Gallen Canton Hospital in Switzerland, correlated the reasoning to women’s heightened susceptibility to the toxins and carcinogens found in tobacco.
This study, presented at the European Multidisciplinary Conference in Lugano, Switzerland, depicted the rarity of lung cancer in women in the early 1900s. However, since the 1960s spurred an intense feminist movement, lung cancer has become one of the leading causes of death in female smokers in the United States. Another study, conducted at St. James Hospital in Dublin, Ireland, presented at the conference showed that women who were diagnosed with lung cancer and underwent surgery had a survival rate of 4.7 years verse 2.1 years in male smokers.
These new found studies suggest that women need to be more aware of their heightened susceptibility to diseases and cancers linked to smoking. Choosing to quit now will save millions of women’s lives, especially those in the middle age range that are closing in on the gap of experiencing cardiac arrest in their sixties. Helpful ways to be successful in quitting smoking is having an outlet, such as a support group. Also, utilizing nicotine products such as electronic cigarettes, the patch and gum will allow women to still experience the effects of addiction to nicotine without all the harmful toxins and carcinogens found in tobacco cigarettes.