MONDAY, Nov. 12, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Women who smoke two packs of cigarettes a day have a 21 percent greater risk of developing high blood pressure, increasing their risk for heart disease, a new study found.
Women who smoke less have less of a risk, but even those who smoke a pack a day significantly increase their risk for high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, the study said.
The findings are published in the Nov. 20 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
"Women who smoke a pack a day are at increased risk of developing hypertension," said lead researcher Dr. Thomas S. Bowman, who's with the Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System and an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School. "Women who smoke two packs a day are at even greater risk," he said.
For the study, Bowman's team collected data on 28,236 women who took part in the Women's Health Study. During a follow-up of 9.8 years, 30.4 percent of the women developed high blood pressure.
The researchers found that women who smoked 15 or more cigarettes a day had a 11 percent greater risk of developing high blood pressure, compared with women who never smoked. Women who smoked 25 or more cigarettes a day had a 21 percent greater risk.
For women who smoked fewer than 15 cigarettes a day, the risk for high blood pressure was a relatively insignificant 4 percent, the researchers found.
Whether quitting smoking reduces the risk of high blood pressure isn't known, Bowman said, but he suspects that the longer a person smokes, the greater the risk.
Bowman noted the high blood pressure can lead to heart disease and stroke. "Hypertension may be the pathway to strokes and cardiovascular death and heart attacks," he said.
Dr. Harlan M. Krumholz, a professor of medicine at Yale University School of Medicine, said the study findings are yet another reason not to smoke.
"We really don't need another reason for people not to smoke," he said. "This study adds to the information about another potential mechanism by which smoking contributes to adverse outcomes."
Aside from the 5,000 chemical and known carcinogens in cigarettes, high blood pressure is another threat that comes with the habit of smoking, Krumholz said.
Krumholz said the new finding should have meaning for girls thinking about taking up smoking. "They know about the risk for cancer and heart disease, but this is something more for them to consider as a reason to stay away from cigarettes," he said.
For more on smoking and heart disease, visit the American Heart Association.