The Worst Kind of Hand-Me-Down

Parents who smoke may increase children's blood pressure, according to study

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) A new study has found that the children of parents who smoke face an increased risk of hypertension in childhood, which can lead to cardiovascular problems as adults.

Researchers from Children's Hospital at the University of Bern, in Switzerland, and the University of Heidelberg, in Germany, suggest secondhand smoke poses a threat to the cardiovascular health of young children.

Dr. Giacomo D. Simonetti, an assistant professor of pediatrics at UB, said prevention of stroke and heart attack begins in childhood and suggested removing avoidable risk factors such as secondhand smoke will help reduce the risk of compromised heart-health later on.

Researchers followed 4,236 healthy boys and girls, ages 5 to 6, living in southwestern Germany. Almost 29 percent of the children's fathers and 20 percent of the children's mothers smoked. In about 12 percent of the children, both parents smoked. The study found that mothers who smoke led to a worse impact on the children's blood pressure levels, which is likely due to maternal lifestyles in which mothers spent more time with their children.

Even after accounting for other heart-disease risk factors such as low birth weight, premature birth, high body mass index and parents with high blood pressure, the study found kids exposed to parental secondhand smoke were 21 percent more likely to have higher systolic numbers (the upper reading on blood pressure figures), registering at levels among the highest 15 percent of the population.

Hypertension ranks as the prime risk factor for heart disease. Some 46,000 non-smoking Americans die from heart disease each year as a result of living with smokers and secondhand smoke, according to the American Cancer Society.

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Review Date: 
January 12, 2011
Last Updated:
January 12, 2011