Parental smoking damages kids’ vascular systems

March 11, 2014

As if reasons didn’t already abound as to why parents shouldn’t smoke, parental cigarette smoking deleteriously affects children’s vascular health up to 25 years after exposure, putting kids at greater risk as adults for stroke and cardiovascular disease, according to the first prospective study of its kind.

 

As if reasons didn’t already abound as to why parents shouldn’t smoke, parental cigarette smoking deleteriously affects children’s vascular health up to 25 years after exposure, putting kids at greater risk as adults for stroke and cardiovascular disease, according to the first prospective study of its kind.

Researchers in Australia and Finland found that adult children of 2 parents who smoked when the children were young or adolescents had greater carotid intimamedia thickness (IMT) as measured by ultrasound, and a vascular age that was 3.3 years greater, than adult children of 2 nonsmoking parents. An editorial accompanying the study explains that IMT is a well-characterized, noninvasive marker of atherosclerosis that is predictive of future cardiovascular events.

The investigators included in their study 2,401 participants from the Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study and 1,375 participants of the Childhood Determinants of Adult Health study. They followed these 2 independent cohorts for up to 25 years.

The difference on average in IMT between the grown children of 2 smokers and the grown children of 2 nonsmoking parents was 0.015 mm. Perhaps most interesting is that the effects persisted independent of whether the grown child was a smoker as an adult or had other cardiovascular risk factors. Increased IMT was only present when both parents smoked, suggesting that the level of exposure is important.

The investigators say their data demonstrate the pervasive effect of earlier-in-life exposure to parental smoking on the arterial health of children into adulthood. They point out that although rates of smoking are decreasing across most of the developed world, it is people aged 20 to 40 years who are still most likely to smoke and to become parents. 

 

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