As for those married to ex-smokers, Glymour and her team only observed that the former smokers had kicked their habit at some point one to 50 years before the start of the study. They could not pinpoint exactly how much time would need to elapse after a smoking spouse quits before their husband or wife's stroke risk fully dissipated.
"But we think the risk to the spouse probably starts to decline right away," Glymour noted. "And that would be consistent with what we already know about stroke and active smoking, which is that if you stop smoking your own health risks decline quickly."
Thomas J. Glynn, director of cancer science and trends at the American Cancer Society, said that he found Glymour's analysis to be "very reasonable."
"I agree that one might expect a fairly steep drop-off in stroke risk for the spouse once the smoking partner quits," he said. "We know, for example, that although it takes about 15 years of not smoking to halve your risk for lung cancer, with heart disease it may take not much more than one to two years of cessation to cut back one's own risk to basically that of a nonsmoker, depending on how long you had been smoking. So, this conclusion makes sense."
"And, in general, I would say that this study provides further valuable evidence of the general dangers of secondhand smoke, and, in particular, the great and often over-looked danger of heart disease, he said. And, of course, it emphasizes the need for anyone who smokes to stop smoking, and at a minimum to establish smoke-free zones in the home, or not smoke in the home at all."
For more about secondhand smoke and health risks, visit the American Lung Association.
SOURCES: Maria Glymour, Sc.D., assistant professor, society, human dev
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