Both unborn and born children exposed to second-hand smoke are more prone to developing atrial fibrillation later in life than their peers who weren’t exposed to tobacco smoke, the study found.
Dr. Gregory Marcus, lead author of the study and expert in treating arrhythmia at UCSF Medical Center in San Francisco, Calif., admitted that his team didn’t find a cause-and-effect relationship between second-hand smoke exposure and risk of atrial fibrillation and more research needed to be done. Yet, doctors did find a link that is statistically significant.
Patients affected by atrial fibrillation experience irregular heart beat because the upper and lower chambers of their heart stop to synchronize. The U.S. Heart, Lung and Blood Institute cautioned that the condition may boost risk of stroke and can lead to heart failure and chest discomfort.
In their study, which was published last week in the medical journal HeartRhythm, authorss wrote that their research is the first to find an association between atrial fibrillation and second-hand smoke.
The recent study involved nearly 5,000 participants who agreed to take part in an online survey about their second-hand smoke exposure in their early years and history of cardiovascular disease.
The research team was especially interested in atrial fibrillation since the lead author is an expert in the condition.
About 12 percent of survey participants said that they were diagnosed with the heart condition. The median age of those who had the disease was 62, while the median age of those that didn’t develop the condition was 50.
The findings were adjusted for other risk factors that may boost heart disease risk such as substance abuse, age, sex, physical activity and so on.
Study authors learned that participants who said that their mothers smoked while expecting or in their early years were 40 percent more likely to develop atrial fibrillation than their healthier peers.
Surprisingly, people who weren’t exposed to other risk factors that may promote the condition had an even higher risk of developing atrial fibrillation in the wake of second-hand smoke exposure.
Dr. Cuno S.P.M. Uiterwaal, a Dutch researcher who was not involved in the study said that the new research points out that “smoke exposure may not only have short term consequences, such as to the fetus, but also long-term hazards to offspring.”
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