Researchers assessed the hearts of 4,580 U.S. adults using echocardiography – ultrasound of the heart. The participants’ average age was nearly 76. None had any obvious signs of heart disease.
Even after accounting for factors such as age, race, body fat, blood pressure, diabetes and alcohol consumption, current smokers had thicker heart walls and reduced pumping function than nonsmokers and former smokers, the study showed.
The study was published Sept. 13 in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Imaging.
It’s long been known that smoking is linked with heart failure, even in people without heart disease. But, heath experts didn’t know how smoking increased the risk of heart failure.
“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,” said study author Dr. Wilson Nadruz Jr. He is a research fellow at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
We are all well aware of the negative effects of smoking. I’d like you to focus on thickening of the heart artery walls as a measure of risk for heart failure and CVD (cardiovascular disease).
Thickening of the intima of the artery wall is a result of inflammation. At the same time plague adheres to the inside of the artery wall, again as a response to inflammation. The fact that this plaque is made of LDL cholesterol led to the myth that LDL cholesterol is “bad cholesterol” and should be lowered at all costs.
As a result, Americans have eaten “reduced fat” foods and taken statin drugs for a generation in error. This week we learned that decades ago sugar companies paid scientists to build a case against saturated fat and cholesterol as primary causes of heart disease. While we reduced our fat intake, we increased our sugar intake by an average of 30% and heart disease skyrocketed.
In the past few years, studies have begun to refute the longstanding claim that fat causes heart disease. In fact, several studies have questioned the validity of the early studies on fat. Despite the fact that fat is no longer considered bad for you, statin drugs are still prescribed for over half the U.S. population.
Statin drugs actually do reduce the risk of heart attack, slightly. However, they do so because they reduce inflammation, not because they reduce LDL cholesterol. In fact, 10% of patients taking statins develop cardiomyopathy (heart muscle disease) that leads to heart failure.
Hormone levels play a vital role in the health of the artery walls. Thyroid function, insulin resistance and sex hormone levels all effect the intima of the arteries. In the coming weeks I will explore some of these relationships in my Wisdom Wednesday blogs.
The Bottom Line:
We need to shift our focus from cholesterol and fat to sugar and hormone function to really reduce the risk of heart failure and CVD.
Source: September 13, 2016 National Institutes of Health