Smoke-free policies mean healthier hearts

Published 9:32 am Thursday, February 14, 2013

Dear Editor,

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of both men and women in the United States. February is American Heart Month, so there is no better time to discuss the significant toll heart disease has on our communities.

Each year, more than 12,000 Alabamians die from heart disease, but the good news is there are ways to reduce the risk of developing coronary heart disease. One of the most effective means to protect people from the development of heart disease is by implementing comprehensive smoke-free policies.

Exposure to secondhand smoke has immediate adverse effects on the cardiovascular system. Nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke at work increase their risk of developing coronary heart disease an astonishing 25-30 percent.

The most recent evidence published in the American Heart Association’s journal, “Circulation,” shows that the most comprehensive laws — those covering workplaces, restaurants and bars — resulted in more health benefits and were associated with a 15 percent decrease in hospitalizations for heart attacks.

The bottom line is there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Even brief exposure can cause changes to the blood vessels that may lead to a heart attack. Now is the time to show we have the heart to do what is necessary to protect everyone’s heart.

Laura Beth Edwards