According to new research, smoking is associated with thicker heart walls and a reduction in the heart’s pumping ability, which are factors associated with an increased risk of heart failure. The study examined data from 4,580 participants in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study who underwent an echocardiogram, with an average age of 75.7 and no obvious signs of cardiovascular disease. After accounting for a variety of factors, such as age, race, and blood pressure, current smokers had thicker heart walls and reduced pumping function when compared to nonsmokers and former smokers.

The results of the study also showed 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. According to Medical Xpress, studies have long established that smoking leads to heart attacks and is linked with heart failure, even in people without cardiovascular disease; however, none have found 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,” says Wilson Nadruz, Jr, MD, PhD, the lead author of the study. “In addition, 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.”

Senior study author Scott Solomon, MD, says, “The good news is that former smokers had similar heart structure and function compared with never smokers. This suggests that the potential effects of tobacco on the myocardium might be reversible after smoking cessation.”

Source: Medical Xpress