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The study included 4,129 black participants who were followed for a median of eight years. Half were followed for a shorter time, half for a longer period. Their average age: 54.
When the study began, none had heart failure or hardening of the arteries, which can lead to heart failure. During the study period, there were 147 hospitalizations for heart failure.
Compared to those who never smoked, smokers had triple the risk of hospitalization for heart failure. That risk was 3.5 times higher for those who currently smoked a pack or more a day. And it was twice as high among those with a history equivalent to smoking a pack a day for 15 years.
The researchers also found a link between current smoking and an enlarged left ventricle -- a sign that the heart's main pumping chamber is not working properly. Changes in its structure and function likely boost heart failure odds, according to study senior author Dr. Michael Hall. He is a cardiologist at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.
The study was published recently 9 in the journal Circulation.
"Previous research has focused on smoking and atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, but not enough attention has been given to the other bad effects of smoking on the heart," Hall said in a journal news release.
"With increasing rates of heart failure, particularly among African-Americans, we wanted to look at the link between smoking and heart failure," he added.
Because the study focused on three counties in the Jackson, Miss., area, the findings may not apply to black Americans who live elsewhere, according to Hall.
"Still, the study clearly underscores the harms of smoking and the benefits of quitting," he said. "As health care 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."
About 20 percent of Americans over age 40 are expected to develop heart failure, according to the American Heart Association.
-- Robert Preidt
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SOURCE: Circulation, news release, April 16, 2018