Researchers from the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment studied more than 6,000 kids ages 8-17. They assessed their exposure to secondhand smoke based on whether they live with a smoker and through their levels of cotinine -- a substance produced when the body breaks down nicotine.
The study found that boys exposed to secondhand smoke had "significantly" higher systolic blood pressure than boys not exposed to tobacco smoke.
However, girls exposed to secondhand smoke actually had lower blood pressure than girls who were not exposed to smoke.
"These findings support several previous studies suggesting that something about female gender may provide protection from harmful vascular changes due to secondhand smoke exposure," Lead author Jill Baumgartner said. "An important next step is to understand why."
The findings suggest the cardiovascular effects of tobacco smoke exposure may begin very early in life. It is not known whether these changes are reversible if children are removed from smoke exposure.
The study was presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting in Denver.
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