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Smoky rooms and cars increase the risk of high blood pressure

It should come as no surprise that smoking is bad for your health. It also isn’t much of a leap to assume you already know that even secondhand smoke can have health consequences. But a new study presented at EuroHeartCare 2019, a scientific congress of the European Society of Cardiology, reveals just how bad exposure to secondhand smoke really is for your heart and overall health.

At this Coachella for cardiology, researchers presented data from the first large study to assess the association between secondhand smoke and hypertension in “never-smokers,” who were verified by urinary levels of cotinine – the principle metabolite of nicotine. The study included over 130,000 never-smokers, with an average age of 35 years.

Results showed that passive smoking at home or work was associated with a 13% increased risk of hypertension (aka high blood pressure), while living with a smoker after age 20 was related to a 15% greater risk. Additionally, living with a smoker for ten years or more was linked to a 17% increased risk in hypertension. Study participants with hypertension who were found to have hypertension were significantly more likely to be exposed to secondhand smoke at home or work than those with normal blood pressure.

Avoid exposure to secondhand smoke regardless of whether the smoker is still in the room,” warns study author Professor Byung Jin Kim, of Sungkyunkwan University, Seoul, Republic of Korea. “Our study in non-smokers shows that the risk of high blood pressure is higher with longer duration of passive smoking – but even the lowest amounts are dangerous.”

High blood pressure is the leading cause of premature death around the world, resulting in nearly ten million deaths in 2015 alone.

“While efforts have been made around the world to minimize the dangers of passive smoking by expanding no smoking areas in public places, our study shows that more than one in five never-smokers are still exposed to secondhand smoke,” explains Kim. “Stricter smoking bans are needed, together with more help for smokers to kick the habit. Knowing that family members suffer should be extra motivation for smokers to quit.”

By Connor Ertz, Staff Writer

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