How smoking ups heart failure risk

Smoking is associated with thicker heart walls and reduction in the heart’s pumping ability — two factors linked to increased risk of heart failure, a new study warns.

That smoking is bad for heart has been known for long but the new study, in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Imagin, reveals a clear mechanism by which tobacco may increase the risk of heart failure.

“These data suggest that smoking can independently lead to thickening of the heart and worsening of heart function, which may lead to a higher risk for heart failure, even in people who don’t have heart attacks,” said lead author of the study Wilson Nadruz Jr from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts.

The study, conducted in participants of average age 75.7 and no obvious signs of cardiovascular disease, also found that higher rates of cumulative cigarette exposure — measure of how much and how long people have smoked during their lifetime — were associated with greater heart damage.

“The more people smoke, the greater the damage to the heart’s structure and function, which reinforces the recommendations stating that smoking is dangerous and should be stopped,” Nadruz Jr said.

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The study examined data from 4,580 participants in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study who underwent an echocardiogram.

Even after accounting for factors such as age, race, body mass index, blood pressure, diabetes and alcohol consumption, current smokers had thicker heart walls and reduced pumping function, compared with nonsmokers and former smokers.

“The good news is that former smokers had similar heart structure and function compared with never smokers,” senior study author said Scott Solomon, Professor at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said.

“This suggests that the potential effects of tobacco on the myocardium might be reversible after smoking cessation,” Solomon noted.



Smoking, both active and second-hand

(“passive”), is estimated to be involved in causing almost one-tenth of cardiovascular disease worldwide. With India at the cusp of a cardiovascular “epidemic”, smoking can however be an avoidable risk factor for heart attacks. Heart attacks result from blockage of coronary arteries which supply the heart muscle. Smoking directly damages the coronary arteries causing “plaques” that block arteries. Significant plaque obstruction of arteries causes anginal chest pain on stress and exertion. Further damage to plaque in arteries lead to sudden clot formation in the small vessels life-threatening heart attacks. Cleaning the clots and fixing the plaques urgently by coronary angioplasty is now the recommended first-line life saving procedure for treating heart attacks.

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