Last Update: Wednesday, August 27, 2014

LIFELONG HEALTH- New Study Shows Risks of Smoking in Women PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dr. David Lipschitz   
Wednesday, 21 November 2012 06:51

When it comes to health, as a general rule, women are far better off than men. Before reaching menopause, their risk of heart disease and stroke is substantially lower than in men, and the numbers of cancers occurring in both sexes is significantly lower. But when it comes to compulsive behaviors, women do not do as well.

Overcoming drug addiction, alcohol abuse and cigarette smoking is much more difficult.

Until recently, the negative effects of smoking had been studied in detail only in men. For the first time, a study in the journal the Lancet has shown that smoking reduces the life expectancy of women by an average of 10 years. The findings were obtained from the Million Women Study conducted in Britain. The study includes 1.2 million women between the ages of 50 and 69 who, at the time of this report, have been followed for 12 years.

At the onset of the study and three years later, they were asked questions about lifestyle and habits. During the 12-year period, a total of 60,000 women had died. At the start of the study, 20 percent of the women were smokers, 28 percent were previous smokers and 52 percent had never smoked.

The risk of death in those continuing to smoke at the three-year mark was three times higher than in those who had never smoked. And the more cigarettes smoked, the greater the risk. In those who smoked one to nine cigarettes daily, the risk of death was twice as high as in nonsmokers.

The authors of this paper conclude that smoking-related illnesses, including lung disease, lung cancer, heart disease and stroke accounted for 66 percent of all deaths among women between the ages of 60 and 80.

Because women didn't start smoking in earnest until after 1940, this is the first study that clearly demonstrates that the long-term negative effects of smoking in women are no different than in men.

The study clearly showed the great benefits of quitting smoking. In an accompanying editorial, Dr. Rachel Huxley of the University of Minnesota notes that women who stop smoking in their 40s reduced the negative effects of smoking by 90 percent, and discontinuing in their 30s essentially eradicated the risk completely.

Most importantly, the effects of nicotine on the heart quickly disappear after quitting smoking. Not only are the number of heart attacks and strokes reduced, but fatalities decrease as well. It is never too late to stop.

Sadly, most women who smoke start in their teens and are less likely to stop than young men. Some believe that many women are reluctant to quit because of weight gain concerns. However, being overweight is far less risky than smoking, and strategies are readily available to help anyone stop smoking while providing useful tools at improving lifestyle through better nutrition and exercise that will minimize the chances of gaining weight.

There is not a single smoker who does not want to quit. Unfortunately, nicotine is truly addictive. There are many smoking cessation programs that are now covered by most insurance policies. Nicotine replacement therapies, including patches and pills, are effective. In addition, a prescription medication, Chantix, can reduce the need to smoke, as can the antidepressant Bupropion. Many hospitals offer highly effective smokingcessation programs that include counseling and support groups.

Most research indicates that the best way to quit is to set a date and stop "cold turkey." And here, nicotine patches or a support group may prove very helpful.

The best approach by far is never to start in the first place. Thank goodness the adult, macho and sophisticated images of smoking that appealed so much to teenagers have largely been dispelled. And the marketing of cigarettes to young people no longer occurs. But despite nationwide antismoking campaigns and the reduction in advertising, too many young people continue to smoke.

Whether a smoker or not, we all have a responsibility to maintain a smoke-free environment for our children and ourselves and to understand that smoking is an addiction and bad for our health. We must stay committed to a public health campaign that continually encourages our children and grandchildren never to smoke.

Dr. David Lipschitz is the author of the book "Breaking the Rules of Aging." To find out more about Dr. David Lipschitz visit www.drdavidhealth.com.

Share
Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 November 2012 06:54