Cigarettes are coffin nails

PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 May, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 31 May, 1993, 12:00am

THERE has been recent comment on the untimely death of one of our legislators. Advice to avoid heart disease has rightly focused on diet and stress, but another major risk factor is heart disease, and one that is pertinent to the current fatality, that of tobacco smoking.

Studies have shown a clear-cut, dose-related effect of tobacco on the coronary arteries, and health researchers all agree that daily smoking is a leading risk factor for coronary heart disease.

A recent report from several countries in this region shows that an increasing number of young adults (under the age of 40 years) are suffering from heart attacks. Other studies on the middle-aged show that heavy smokers are likely to have a heart attack11 years earlier than non-smokers: non-smokers have their first heart attack at a median age of 62 years compared to only 51 years for smokers. A recent, large study in Japan on over one quarter of a million adults followed up over 17 years identified cigarette smoking as ''the leading risk factor'' for cardiovascular disease. Heart disease and cancer (both tobacco-related) are our top two causes of death in Hongkong.

As other factors, such as sex, age and any hereditary propensity to heart disease cannot be changed, it is prudent to address the lifestyle factors that can be changed - smoking, diet, physical activity and stress. The good news about tobacco is that itsrisk factor for heart disease subsides a few years after quitting, so even in middle age (some would say especially in middle age) it is worth abandoning a habit that will ultimately and prematurely kill one in three users.

Dr JUDITH MACKAY Director Asian Consultancy on Tobacco Control