Blood pressure among boys and girls reacts differently to passive smoking, according to an intriguing new study.
The divergent findings came from US research involving more than 6,400 young people.
Findings of the first study to assess the effects of passive smoking on blood pressure in children were unveiled at the Pediatric Academic Societies’ annual meeting in Denver, Colorado.
Scientists found that boys who inhale second-hand tobacco smoke at home may experience significant levels of raised blood pressure which could lead to high blood pressure (hypertension) and an increased risk of heart disease in later life.
However, passive smoking among girls appeared to be associated with a lowering of blood pressure.
Dr Jill Baumgartner, from the University of Minnesota said: “These findings support several previous studies suggesting that something about female gender may provide protection from harmful vascular changes due to second-hand smoke exposure.
“An important next step is to understand why.”
Smoke exposure among males aged eight to 17 was linked to systolic blood pressure, which relates to surges of blood each time the heart contracts. But girls who were exposed to second-hand smoke had lower blood pressure than those who were not. Blood pressure of children living with a smoker was increased by 1.6 millimetres of mercury in boys, but lowered by 1.8 millimetres in girls.
Dr Baumgartner added: “While the increases in blood pressure observed among boys in our study may not be clinically meaningful for an individual child, they have large implications for populations.
“The relationship between second-hand smoke exposure and blood pressure observed in our study provides further incentives for governments to support smoking bans and other legislation that protect children from second-hand smoke.”