Study: Smoking Is Worse for the Heart Than Previously Thought

Some function is partially restored once smokers kick the habit, results presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress 2022 show.

The more that an individual smokes, the worse their heart function becomes, but some of the function was restored when individuals stopped smoking, according to the results of a study presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress 2022.

“It is well known that smoking causes blocked arteries, leading to coronary heart disease and stroke,” Eva Holt of Herlev and Gentofte Hospital in Copenhagen, Denmark, said in a statement.

“Our study shows that smoking also leads to thicker, weaker hearts. It means that smokers have a smaller volume of blood in the left heart chamber and less power to pump it out to the rest of the body,” Holt said.

“The more you smoke, the worse your heart function becomes,” she said. “The heart can recuperate to some degree with smoking cessation, so it is never too late to quit.”

The study results also showed that smoking is associated with a higher risk of heart failure, because the heart is too stiff or weak to pump blood around the body properly. This would result in the body not receiving the nutrients and oxygen it needs to function normally.

The link between smoking and heart function and structure has not been fully examines, so investigators said that they wanted to explore whether smoking was related to these changes for those without cardiovascular disease.

They also wanted to see the effect of changing smoking habits.

They used data from the 5th Copenhagen City Heart Study, which investigated cardiovascular risk factors and diseases in the general population. Investigators enrolled 3874 individuals, aged 20 to 99 years, without heart disease.

Individuals filled out a self-administered questionnaire for information regarding their smoking history, estimated packs per year, and the number of cigarettes smoked. One pack per year was defined as 20 cigarettes smoked every day for 1 year. They also had heart ultrasound, which provided information about function and structure.

Investigators compared the echocardiography measures of smokers to those who have never smoked, after adjusting for age, body mass index, diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension, lung function, and sex.

Study participants had an average age of 56 years, and 43% were women. Approximately 18.6% are smokers, 40.9% are former smokers, and 40.5% had never smoked.

“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. 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,” Holt said.

“Our study indicates that smoking not only damages the blood vessels but also directly harms the heart. The good news is that some of the damage is reversible by giving up,” Holt said.

Reference

Smoking is even more damaging to the heart than previously thought. News release. EurekAlert. August 25, 2022. Accessed August 25, 2022. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/962590