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Casey Ryan, MD, Grand Forks, Published October 02 2012

Letter: Secondhand smoke dangerous

In accordance with World Heart Day on Sept. 29, I want to remind people of the dangerous connection between secondhand smoke and heart attacks and heart disease. Eliminating exposure to secondhand smoke is an important step in maintaining a healthy heart.

Secondhand smoke has long been known to increase the risk of heart attack, heart disease and stroke. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke increase their risk of heart disease by as much as 25 to 30 percent. Furthermore, it’s thought that exposure to secondhand smoke increases the risk for heart attacks with shorter-term exposure. Likewise, eliminating secondhand smoke has other immediate health benefits.

Studies – including those done in our region by the University of North Dakota at Altru Health System and the Mayo Clinic – suggest that smoke-free laws may reduce the incidence of heart attack.

Another important thing to remember is that all of the heart attacks, heart disease and stroke caused by secondhand smoke, or smoking in general, are entirely preventable. By living a healthy, smoke-free lifestyle and avoiding secondhand smoke, we can all look forward to happier, healthier lives.

So as we move beyond World Heart Day, I encourage all North Dakotans to make healthy decisions that include limiting their exposure to secondhand smoke. That simple step will help keep your heart healthy by decreasing your risk of heart attack and heart disease.

Ryan is president, Altru Health System.