In most cases, those fatal heart attacks occur in people who do not have a history of heart disease or heart failure. In the study, Sandhu and his colleagues set out to document in more detail the relationship between the number of cigarettes smoked, the duration of smoking and the impact of quitting smoking on the risk of sudden cardiac death — particularly among women and patients without known heart disease.
Even after the scientists adjusted for factors that could affect heart disease, such as age, history of diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, weight, aspirin use, multivitamin use, menopausal status and postmenopausal-hormone use, the relationship between any smoking and an increased risk of sudden heart death remained. Over 30 years, 351 women died of sudden heart attacks. Among them, even women who smoked the least — 1 to 14 cigarettes — were nearly two times more likely than nonsmokers to be at risk for sudden cardiac death. Women who smoked 25 or more cigarettes were more than three times as likely to die suddenly. Moreover, for every five years that a woman continued smoking, her risk of dying from a heart attack increased by 8%.