Women smokers are 2 1/2 times more likely to suffer sudden cardiac death

Smoking cigarettes may more than double a woman’s risk of sudden cardiac death. But quitting can reduce that risk significantly over time, according to a new study.

Sudden cardiac death is a sudden, unexpected death caused by loss of heart function. It is the leading cause of heart-related deaths in the U.S. and is responsible for up to 400,000 deaths per year.

Researchers found that women who were current smokers were two-and-a-half times more likely to suffer sudden cardiac death than nonsmokers. The risk of sudden cardiac death was even higher among heavy and lifetime smokers.

“We found the more that you smoke, the higher the risk of sudden cardiac death,” says researcher Roopinder Sandhu, MD, MPH, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Alberta in Alberta, Canada. “But the important thing is that this risk can be eliminated after smoking cessation.”

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