Frequent smoking habits greatly increase the risk of heart failure for African Americans, compared to those who never smoke. This is the finding of a new study from experts at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.
Senior author Michael E. Hall points out that while scientists in the past have focused studies on smoking and atherosclerosis, the present study fills a gap in the research on smoking and heart failure. "With increasing rates of heart failure, particularly among African Americans, we wanted to look at the link between smoking and heart failure,” Hall said.
What is heart failure? A condition of the heart muscle characterized by its inability to pump an adequate amount of blood to the body’s tissues, which need oxygen and nutrients to function optimally. Someone with heart failure often experiences fatigue and shortness of breath, making everyday activities difficult. Heart failure can be treated with drugs and lifestyle changes, such as smoking cessation, but these therapeutic approaches won’t cure it.
In their study, researchers recruited 4,129 participants from the Jackson Heart Study, with an average age of 54. None of the participants had heart failure or arterial hardening at the beginning of the study, but after following the participants for a medium time of eight years, there were 147 hospitalizations for heart failure. 2,884 people from the study never smoked, 503 were current smokers, and 742 were former smokers.
Not surprisingly, hospitalization was three times more likely for current smokers, particularly for smokers who smoked at least a pack a day. Hospitalization was twice as likely for participants with a smoking history equivalent to smoking a pack a day for 15 years.
Researchers also found a link between current smoking and a larger left ventricle, the main chamber in the heart designated for pumping blood. Left ventricle enlargements is an early sign of impending heart failure.
The authors note that they controlled for high blood pressure, diabetes, body mass, and other factors known to increase the risk of heart disease before they diagnosed the risk of heart failure connected with smoking.
“The study clearly underscores the harms of smoking and the benefits of quitting," Hall said. “As healthcare professionals, we would recommend that all patients quit smoking anyway, but the message should be made even more forcefully to patients at higher risk of heart failure."
The present study was published in the journal Circulation.