ESC: Tobacco Smoke More Damaging to Women's Arteries

Impact of tobacco smoke exposure on carotid wall thickness is more than double in women than men

TUESDAY, Aug. 30 (HealthDay News) -- The amount of lifetime exposure to tobacco smoke significantly correlates with the thickness of carotid arterial walls in both genders, but the impact is more than double in women than in men, according to a study presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress held from Aug. 27 to 31 in Paris, France.

Elena Tremoli, Ph.D., from the University of Milan in Italy, and colleagues compared the effects of tobacco smoke and other factors on carotid artery wall thickness in men and women. The carotid arteries of 1,694 men and 1,893 women were examined by ultrasound for the presence of wall thickening and plaque.

The investigators found that the amount of lifetime exposure to tobacco smoke was significantly associated with the thickness of carotid arterial walls in both genders, with the impact more than double in women compared to men. Similarly, the number of cigarettes smoked per day had more than a five-fold impact on the progression of disease over time in women compared to men. The associations were independent of age, blood pressure, cholesterol level, obesity, and social class. Compared to men who were less-educated, men with more education showed a greater thickening of arterial walls, but this effect was not observed in women. Men, but not women, showed a strong relation between arterial wall thickening and the levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) and white blood cells counts. However, women who smoked heavily showed a similar relationship between CRP and arterial wall thickening as men.

"The reasons for the stronger effect of tobacco smoke on women's arteries are still unknown, but some hints may come from the complex interplay between smoke, inflammation, and atherosclerosis," the authors state.

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