In fact, children exposed to parental secondhand smoke were 21 percent more likely to have the upper number of their blood pressure reading (the systolic figure, which corresponds to heart contractions) register at levels among the highest 15 percent of the population.
Mothers who smoked appeared to confer a worse impact on their child's blood pressure levels than smoking fathers, although the researchers said that likely reflected maternal lifestyle and the generally greater amount of time the mothers spent in the home.
Dr. Gregg C. Fonarow, a cardiology professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, expressed little surprise at the findings.
"We certainly know that secondhand smoke is dangerous and associated with adverse consequences," he noted. "In adults, there's certainly higher heart attack and stroke risk, as well as lung disease. And it's previously been known that secondhand smoke can be dangerous to children's lungs," he added.
"This look at its impact on blood pressure just reinforces the notion that there's no acceptable exposure to secondhand smoke when it comes to infants and young children," Fonarow said. "And it's yet another reason why we need to protect them from exposure because it damages their lungs and blood vessels and can already manifest in harm to their blood pressure."
The American Cancer Society has more on secondhand smoke.
SOURCES: Giacomo D. Simonetti, M.D., assistant professor, pediatrics, Children's Hospital, University of Bern, Switzerland; Gregg C. Fonarow, M.D., professor, cardiology, department of medic
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