Smoking and heart health: Tobacco damages the structure of the heart

Share on Pinterest
New research suggests that smoking directly affects the heart. Image credit: sankai / Getty Images.
  • Over 8 million people around the world die each year from tobacco use.
  • Researchers from Herlev and Gentofte Hospital in Copenhagen found that smoking weakens the structure of the heart, affecting its functioning.
  • The research team also found that quitting smoking helped the heart recover.

The use of tobacco, including smoking, claims more than 8 million lives around the world every year.

Previous research shows that smoking negatively impacts a person blood vessels – more than 30% of deaths coronary artery disease occur from active smoking or second hand smoke exposure.

Smoking doubles a person’s risk of heart attack and triples the risk of stroke.

Now, researchers from Herlev and Gentofte hospital in Copenhagen, Denmark have found evidence suggesting that smoking not only impacts a person’s blood vessels, but also weakens the structure of the heart itself, affecting his or her. operation.

The researchers recently presented their findings at the 2022 European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Congress.

Previous research shows that smoking negatively impacts a person’s blood vessels, potentially causing heart problems.

For example, the nicotine in cigarettes can cause narrow blood vessels, limiting the amount of blood that can flow through them. Nicotine can also demonstrably increase that of a person blood pressure.

‘We know that smoking causes coronary heart disease and heart failure,’ explained Dr Eva Holt of Herlev and Gentofte Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark, lead author of this study.

“But the purpose of this study was to investigate whether smoking had an independent effect on heart structure and function in a large general population with no known heart disease,” he specified.

Dr. Holt and her team evaluated data from more than 3,800 participants in the fifth Study of the heart of the city of Copenhagen. This study looked at cardiovascular disease and risk factors in the general population. Study participants were between the ages of 20 and 93 and had no history of heart disease.

Data collected during the study included a questionnaire addressing the participants’ smoking history as well as a echocardiogram or ultrasound of the heart.

The researchers determined that current smokers in the participant pool had thicker, heavier, and weaker hearts than those who had never smoked. The study also found a correlation between increased cigarette smoking “pack years”- 1 pack a year equals 20 cigarettes smoked every day for 1 year – and the heart’s reduced ability to pump blood.

“We found that current smoking and accumulated years were associated with worsening of the structure and function of the left heart chamber – the most important part of the heart, “says Dr. Holt.” Additionally, we found that over a 10-year period, those who continued to smoke developed thicker, heavier and weaker hearts that were less able to pump blood than non-smokers and those who quit during that time. “

MNT spoke to Dr. Rigved Tadwalkar, a board-certified cardiologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, who was not involved in this study.

“The interesting thing about this study is that it is looking at changes in the heart’s main pumping chamber, the left ventricle, due to tobacco use, which has so far been less well explained,” he commented.

“We always talk about the link between tobacco use and disease of the blood vessels, including the arteries of the heart, but we haven’t gone into the details of how it affects the structure and function of the heart itself,” he noted.

According to Dr. Tadwalkar, cigarettes increase the propensity for plaque development on the inner walls of the arteries, clinically known as atherosclerosis. This can lead to heart damage both directly and indirectly, she said.

“Directly, smoking damages the vascular wall, the blood vessel wall, leading to constriction and reduced elasticity, as well as impaired function of the endothelium, which is the inner layer of blood vessels,” he explained.

“Indirectly, there are multiple effects. Smoking can increase [the] inflammatory load and this is demonstrated in various ways, including increased platelet activity [and] increased homocysteine ​​levels. It can increase thrombosis – which is the creation of clots – cholesterol levels and can lead to activation of the sympathetic nervous system, which is the part of the nervous system responsible for increasing blood pressure and heart rate. So that chronic heart rate increase in blood pressure can lead to this dysfunction. “

– Dr. Tadwalkar in makeup

According to the new study, Dr. Holt and her team found evidence that quitting smoking can help the heart recover to some degree.

“The result that the heart appears to regain its former structure and function after quitting smoking could be a valuable motivation for giving the patient to quit smoking,” he added.

Dr. Tadwalkar agreed. “We certainly have data that it does and this study follows a line of other previous studies that show that in a variety of ways, and not just for the heart, that quitting smoking will improve one’s health as a whole,” he explained.

“Quitting smoking immediately will reduce your heart rate and blood pressure, as well as [the] sympathetic nervous system response, ”continued Dr. Tadwalkar.

“So the good news is that even immediately, there are physiological benefits to this,” he stressed. “And then the decrease over time of that inflammatory load and these other destructive pathophysiological processes, from a lack of chronic exposure, are part of the reasons for this improvement.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.