Can secondhand smoke increase my risk for heart disease?

Exposure to secondhand smoke has immediate adverse effects on the cardiovascular system and can cause coronary heart disease. Each year, an estimated 46,000 nonsmoking Americans die of coronary heart disease, primarily because of exposure to secondhand smoke. Nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or at work increase their risk of developing coronary heart disease by 25% to 30%.

Cigarette smoking interferes with the normal functioning of the heart, blood, and vascular systems in ways that increase the risk of having a heart attack. Breathing secondhand smoke can have the same effect. Even brief secondhand smoke exposure can damage the lining of blood vessels and cause blood platelets to become stickier. These changes can cause a heart attack.

Second-hand smoke is a known and direct cause of heart disease. A 2007 report from the Surgeon General estimated that nonsmokers who are exposed to second-hand smoke at home or in the workplace have an increased heart disease risk of 25 to 30 percent.

Cigarette smoke contains hundreds of toxic chemicals, many of which have been identified as cancer causing. These chemicals raise the short- and long-term risk of heart attack and increase blood pressure. Over time, high blood pressure is a contributor to heart disease, as it promotes narrowing and hardening of the arteries. Second-hand smoke is not filtered and is therefore even more toxic than the smoke inhaled by the person who is smoking the cigarette.

In the United States, many states and cities have enacted laws to ban smoking in public places and workplaces to protect people from secondhand smoke. These laws vary by jurisdiction.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.