Smoking is a known risk factor for high blood pressure and heart disease. Over time, smoking can narrow your blood vessels, making it hard for oxygen-rich blood to get to your heart and other organs. However, your smoking habit may also be raising the heart disease risk of those around you. A recent study published in the journal Circulation found that children who were exposed to secondhand smoke had an increased risk of carotid plaques in their arteries as adults.
Researchers looked at children’s blood samples and the smoking habit reports of their parents, then looked at ultrasounds of the grown-up kids about 26 years later. It was found that, compared to the kids who had two nonsmoking parents, the cigarette smoke byproduct cotinine was twice as likely to be found in kids who had one smoking parent. It was 3.5 times more likely to be found in the blood of kids who had two parents that smoked. Compared to the kids of nonsmokers, those who had smoking parents but no cotinine in their blood were 1.5 times more likely to have a carotid plaque in their arteries. Kids who did have cotinine in their blood were four times more likely to have a carotid plaque in their arteries as adults.
It is suggested that, although the total number of cases of carotid plaques was low in this study, secondhand smoke can still be harmful to anyone who lives with a smoker. Secondhand smoke can not only affect heart health, but can also raise your risk of breast cancer and nicotine addiction. So for the heart health of yourself, your children, and anyone who lives with you, make an effort to quit smoking. It’s never too late to quit and lower your risk of smoking-related health conditions.