If you’re a woman who just can’t give up smoking, but you’ve toned it down, even to just one cigarette per day, then don’t think you’ve eliminated the risks; according to a new research published in the Journal of American Heart Association, even very light smoking doubles the risk of heart failure in women, while quitting drops the risks in a few years.

The research tracked the health of 101,000 US nurses over three decades. In people aged 35 or younger, heart problems usually occur due to a genetic predisposition; but in people older, as were most of the studied nurses, heart failure is typically preceded by coronary heart disease, where the heart’s arteries become blocked by fatty deposits.

After taking into consideration the other factors, such as high cholesterol, family history and high blood pressure, Dr Roopinder Sandhu and colleagues found the women who smoked were twice as likely to suffer major heart issues, even if they smoked “light-to-moderate” amounts – between one and 14 cigarettes a day. For every five years of continued smoking, the risk went up by 8%.

Dr Sandhu, of the the University of Alberta, Canada, explains:

“What this study really tells women is how important it is to stop smoking. The benefits in terms of sudden cardiac death reduction are there for all women, not just those with established heart disease. It can be difficult to quit. It needs to be a long-term goal. It’s not always easily achievable and it may take more than one attempt.”

Ellen Mason, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, also appreciated the study:

“This study shows that smoking just a couple of cigarettes a day could still seriously affect your future health. As we approach the new year, many of us will be making resolutions and giving up smoking will be top of the list for lots of people. If you’re thinking of quitting and need a nudge, this research adds to the wealth of evidence that stopping smoking is the single best thing you can do for your heart health.”

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