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ESC: Smoking directly harms the structure and function of the heart

New research suggests that smoking not only damages the blood vessels, but also directly harms the structure and function of the heart.

New research suggests that smoking not only damages the blood vessels, but also directly harms the structure and function of the heart.

While numerous studies have previously shown that smoking is associated with a higher risk of heart failure, few have examined the link between smoking and heart structure and function.

This study therefore explored whether smoking was related to changes in the structure and function of the heart in people without cardiovascular disease, and the effect of changing smoking habits.

Cigarette smoking leads to thicker, weaker hearts, that are less able to pump blood around the body

The research, presented at the ESC Congress 2022, analysed data from the 5th Copenhagen City Heart Study which investigated cardiovascular risk factors and diseases in the general population.

A total of 3,874 participants aged 20 to 99 years without heart disease were enrolled. The average age of participants was 56 years and 43% were women.

A self-administered questionnaire was used to obtain information on smoking history and to estimate the number of cigarettes smoked through life. One pack-year is defined as 20 cigarettes smoked every day for one year.

Participants had an ultrasound (an echocardiography) of the heart so that the researchers could analyse information about the heart’s structure and how well it was working.

The researchers compared the echocardiography measures of current smokers versus never smokers after adjusting for age, sex, body mass index, hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes and lung function.

Some of the damage caused by smoking is reversible by giving up

Nearly one in five participants were current smokers (18.6%), while 40.9% were former smokers and 40.5% had never smoked.

Compared to never smokers, current smokers had thicker, weaker and heavier hearts, and increasing pack-years were associated with pumping less blood.

“We found that current smoking and accumulated pack-years were associated with worsening of the structure and function of the left heart chamber – the most important part of the heart,” explains study author Dr. Eva Holt of Herlev and Gentofte Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark.

“Furthermore, we found that over a 10-year period, those who continued smoking developed thicker, heavier and weaker hearts that were less able to pump blood compared to never smokers and those who quit during that time,” she added.

However, some function was restored when people stopped smoking. The authors of the study therefore encourage smokers to quit to preserve their heart health.

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