Change of heartBy John Pastor • Published: January 19th, 2009
Category: Health in a Heartbeat
Poets will say that a determined heart can be as unyielding as granite.
But once again, the scourge of hearts everywhere has something to say about it.
Cigarette smoke, that unwavering obstacle to cardiac health, may actually play an unwelcome role in re-sculpting the heart.
Scientists at the University of Illinois at Chicago used echocardiography and microscopic examinations to reveal that exposure to cigarette smoke actually alters the architecture of the heart in rats.
The changes can hardly be considered an improvement.
The left ventricle… the heart’s main pumping chamber… becomes disfigured in rats after five weeks of exposure to cigarette smoke.
Smoking has been linked to heart attacks, cancer, emphysema and other health problems. This study is the first to suggest tobacco smoke activates proteins that actually remodel the heart
But it’s not just nicotine… the toxic chemical that helps make tobacco so addictive… that’s being blamed.
Cigarette smoke contains four-thousand other chemicals that may be acting with or alongside nicotine to aggravate heart problems.
Many of them are flavoring compounds added to enhance the taste of the smoke.
Illinois cardiologists suspect the smoke, which is a product of the complex chemical interactions of many elements, is activating enzymes that control cell growth and survival in heart muscle.
It also increases the levels of the norepinephrine [nor-eh-peh-nef-rin], a hormone released during stressful events.
Apparently, the smoke-driven chemical cascade causes a literal change of heart… and an unwelcome one, at that.