Smoking is even worse for your heart than you might already think, new Danish research warns.
"It is well known that smoking causes blocked arteries, leading to coronary heart disease and stroke," said researcher Dr. Eva Holt, of Herlev and Gentofte Hospital in Copenhagen.
"Our study shows that smoking also leads to thicker, weaker hearts," she said. "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. The more you smoke, the worse your heart function becomes."
What's the good news? "The heart can recuperate to some degree with smoking cessation, so it is never too late to quit," Holt added.
For the study, the researchers collected data on nearly 4,000 men and women who took part in the 5th Copenhagen City Heart Study. The participants were between the ages of 20 and 99 and none had heart disease.
Participants reported their smoking habits and also had an ultrasound of their hearts, to see how well they functioned.
After taking into account age, sex, weight, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and lung function, the investigators found that smokers had thicker, weaker and heavier hearts. The more cigarettes people smoked, the more the pumping ability of their heart suffered.
The findings were presented Thursday at the annual meeting of the European Society of Cardiology, in Barcelona. Findings presented at medical meetings are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
"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 in a meeting news release.
"Our study indicates that smoking not only damages the blood vessels, but also directly harms the heart," she added. "The good news is that some of the damage is reversible by giving up [smoking]."
For more on smoking and heart disease, see the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
SOURCE: European Society of Cardiology, news release, Aug. 25, 2022