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Dr. Andrea Moyer, St. Luke's Hospital

Study finds smoking more harmful to women's hearts

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that smoking-related diseases cause the deaths of about 178,000 women in the United States each year. One in six American women aged 18 years or older is a smoker.

One of the potentially fatal diseases caused by smoking is heart disease. Interestingly, smoking may affect women's heart health more dramatically than men's. A new study put forth by the University of Minnesota and Johns Hopkins University found that female smokers are 25 percent more likely to develop coronary heart disease than men. Why smoking causes more heart disease in women compared to men has been explained at least partly by gender-based biologic differences. It has been suggested that women may extract more carcinogens, or cancer-causing substances, and toxins from each cigarette compared to men.

This recent study also showed some reasons why women may smoke:
  • Women may feel the need to smoke based on their interactions with specific social groups like co-workers or friends. Women may feel a sense of belonging and a need to smoke based on these relationships.
  • Women may become addicted, not only to the effects of smoking, but to the patterns associated with it and their loved one. If a woman and her loved one see smoking as part of their everyday activity, they may smoke to relieve stress, for example.
Studies show that those who quit smoking, versus those who continue to smoke, cut their risk for coronary heart disease in half within the first year.

For more information on the risks of smoking or to find resources on how to quit, visit smokefree.gov or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).

Dr. Andrea Moyer is a board-certified cardiologist at Cardiac Specialists of St. Luke's. For more information, call 314-205-6699 or visit her Meet the Doctor page.

This article was published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on September 22, 2011.

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