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Heart disease

Nicotine Levels in Toenail Clippings Reveal Risk of Heart Disease

Saturday, November 01, 2008 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: heart disease, health news, Natural News

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(NaturalNews) The level of nicotine in a woman's toenails is a highly accurate predictor of her heart disease risk, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of California-San Diego and published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

"The use of toenail nicotine is a novel way to objectively measure exposure to tobacco smoke and could become a useful test to identify high-risk individuals in the future," lead researcher Wael Al-Delaimy said.

Al-Delaimy noted that while it is well-known that smoking is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke, physicians cannot always obtain accurate data about a patient's smoking history simply by asking. Other tests of nicotine body burden, such as saliva or urine tests, only indicate recent exposure to cigarette smoke. But because toenails grow at an average rate of only 1 centimeter per year, their nicotine concentration gives a more accurate picture of long-term exposure - including second-hand smoke.

The researchers examined toenail clippings from 62,500 nurses, and found that those who had heart disease had, on average, twice as much nicotine in their toenails as healthy women. Even after adjusting for other potential influences, women with the highest nicotine content in their toenails had four times the heart disease risk of those with the lowest nicotine content.

Women with high nicotine concentrations were more likely to have high blood pressure, diabetes, to drink heavily, to have a family history of smoking and to be thinner than those with less nicotine were.

The researchers noted that it is not nicotine itself that causes heart disease, but that nicotine merely functions as a measure of overall tobacco exposure.

"People using nicotine replacement therapy should not be alarmed by this study," said Ellen Mason of the British Heart Foundation, "as it is the other chemicals inhaled when smoking, such as carbon monoxide that cause the risk of heart disease, not nicotine."

"Men and women who smoke are around twice as likely to suffer a heart attack in their life time as those who don't," Mason said, "and quitting smoking is one of the most effective ways to reduce this risk."

Sources for this story include: news.bbc.co.uk.

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