According to the results, published in the journalCirculation: Cardiovascular Imaging, smoking thickens the heart wall, reducing pumping ability. Smoking is a major preventable cause of cardiovascular disease. It has been established that smoking tobacco leads to an increased risk of heart failure, even in individuals without cardiovascular disease. However, the mechanism by which tobacco damages the heart and causes cardiovascular events has not been found.
Some researchers have found an association with an increase in the mass of the heart’s left ventricle; others found no change and others still found a reduction in mass.
The left ventricle is of particular interest to tobacco researchers because it is a vital player in the pumping system of the heart. The left ventricle’s wall is predominantly made of muscle, so, like any muscle, it increases in size in response to being worked harder.
Certain health factors can increase the heart’s workload and, consequently, the thickness of the left ventricle wall (Left ventricular hypertrophy). These factors include some heart conditions and high blood pressure .
Left ventricular hypertrophy is known to result in a loss of cardiac function, which can lead to complications that include an interruption to the blood supply of the heart, arrhythmia , and stroke.
In an attempt to produce a clearer picture, a team of researchers recently examined the hearts of thousands of individuals from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study. They were drawn from four communities in the United States: Forsyth County, NC; Jackson, MS; the suburbs of Minneapolis, MN; and Washington County, MD.
With an average age of 75.5, none had obvious signs of cardiovascular disease. Through questionnaires, the researchers gauged how long each participant had smoked and calculated how many cigarettes they had smoked over their lifetime.
Of the 4,580 individuals, 287 (6.3 per cent) were current smokers, 2,316 (50.5 per cent) were former smokers, and 1,977 (43.2 per cent) had never smoked.
Each participant underwent an echocardiogram – a scan that uses high-frequency sounds to create an image of the heart and nearby blood vessels. When the scans were assessed, it became clear that within the group that smoked, the walls of their left ventricles were significantly thicker. Source: Medical News Today