Risk of heart rhythm disorder increases the more you smoke

Risk of heart rhythm disorder increases the more you smoke

Those who smoke a substantial amount are at a greater risk of a heart rhythm disorder called atrial fibrillation, a new study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, a European Society of Cardiology (ESC) journal, has revealed.

In the study, there was a 14% increased risk of a heart rhythm disorder found for every ten cigarettes smoked per day. A linear dose-response relationship was present, which meant that the risk increased with each additional cigarette smoked.

When looking into the various types of smokers, the research found that:

  • Current smokers had a 32% increased risk of atrial fibrillation
  • Ever smokers (current and former smokers combined) had a 21% increased risk of the heart condition and
  • Former smokers had a 9% increased risk.

Compared to zero cigarettes per day, smoking five, ten, 15, 20, 25 and 29 cigarettes per day was associated with a 9%, 17%, 25%, 32%, 39%, and 45% increased risk of atrial fibrillation respectively.

Every ten pack-years of smoking was associated with a 16% increased risk of developing atrial fibrillation.

About atrial fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation is the most common heart rhythm disorder, causing 20-30% of all strokes as well as increasing the risk of premature death. One in four middle-aged adults in Europe and the US will develop the condition.

By 2030, it is estimated that there will be 14-17 million patients with the heart rhythm disorder in the European Union (EU), with 120,000-215,000 new diagnoses each year.

Importance for public health

“If you smoke, stop smoking and if you don’t smoke, don’t start,” said study author Dr Dagfinn Aune, postdoctoral researcher at Imperial College London, UK, and associate professor at Bjørknes University College in Oslo, Norway. “We found that smokers are at increased risk of atrial fibrillation, but the risk is reduced considerably in those who quit.”

Aune concluded: “Our results provide further evidence of the health benefits of quitting smoking and, even better, to never start smoking in the first place. This is important from a public health perspective to prevent atrial fibrillation and many other chronic diseases.”

A lifetime smoker has a 50% probability of dying due to smoking and will on average lose ten years of life. The rate of smoking in Europe is declining; however, it is increasing in women, adolescents and the socially disadvantaged.


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