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Secondhand Smoke Starts Damaging Arteries in Childhood

Passive exposure tied to blood vessel damage in 13-year-olds, research shows

TUESDAY, March 2 (HealthDay News) -- Kids exposed to secondhand smoke face a higher risk of developing early signs of clogged arteries by the time they're 13, and are also more likely to have other risk factors for heart disease, Finnish researchers warn.

The authors of the new study examined 494 children and found that those exposed to secondhand smoke between the ages of 8 and 13 were more likely to show thickening of blood vessel walls, a precursor to hardening -- clogging -- of arteries.

The researchers also found that the kids who were exposed to the most tobacco smoke had higher levels of apolipoprotein B, which contributes to "bad" cholesterol, another heart disease risk factor.

"Although previous research has found that passive smoke may be harmful for blood vessels among adults, we did not know until this study that these specific effects also happen among children and adolescents," study author Dr. Katariina Kallio, research fellow at the Research Center of Applied and Preventive Cardiovascular Medicine at Finland's University of Turku, said in a news release from the American Heart Association.

"These findings suggest that children should not face exposure to tobacco smoke at all," Kallio said. "Even a little exposure to tobacco smoke may be harmful for blood vessels. We need to provide children a smoke-free environment."

According to Kallio, Finnish children are exposed to about the same level of secondhand smoke as U.S. kids.

The findings will be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on secondhand smoke and kids.

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, March 2, 2010

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