SEP 14, 2016 10:46 AM PDT

Heart Failure from Thicker Myocardium in Current Smokers

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker
Besides an elevated risk for heart failure, what do thicker heart walls and a weakened pumping ability have in common? People who smoke regularly.
Scientists from the American Heart Association (AHA) studied echocardiogram results from over 4500 participants from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study. With an average age of 75 and no obvious signs of cardiovascular disease, participants in the study were compared based on their smoking status: nonsmokers, former smokers, and current smokers. Factors like age, race, BMI, blood pressure, diabetes, and alcohol consumption were accounted for and taken into consideration during analysis of the results.

While it is no surprise that another study has linked regular smoking habits to an increased risk for heart disease, this study offers what most others do not: the mechanism by which smoking and heart disease risk are connected. 

"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," explains Wilson Nadruz Jr., MD, PhD, lead author of the study.

They also found that, in the words of Scott Solomon, MD, senior study author, “the effects of tobacco on the myocardium might be reversible after smoking cessation.” In fact, the echocardiogram results from former smokers were much more similar to the results of nonsmokers than the results of current smokers.

However, the study also found that higher levels of cumulative, lifetime cigarette exposure is associated with greater heart damage, a finding that further encourages cessation of smoking as soon as possible to avoid health effects later in life.

Around 17 percent of adults in the United States aged 18 years or older currently smoked cigarettes in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Current smokers are defined as a person who reports regular smoking habits including at least 100 cigarettes smoked during their lifetime and reported smoking at least most days at the time the survey was conducted. Additionally, it is important to consider that this data does not include the teens that begin smoking well before age 18.

The AHA study led by Nadruz was recently published in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Imaging. 

Source: American Heart Association, CDC
About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog:
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