A study that brought together researchers from the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Porto (FMUP) and the University of Lorraine, in France, concluded that smoking may be responsible for the aging of the heart in about 20 years.
“Cigarette-induced cell damage and the inflammatory immune response are the two likely mechanisms that explain premature aging. [do coração] and the increase in the incidence of chronic diseases in smokers”, said the researcher from the Cardiovascular Research Unit (UnIC) of FMUP.
Speaking to the Lusa agency, João Pedro Ferreira, who is one of the authors of the study carried out with citizens of Lorraine, explained that it was found that “smokers, even if they were 20 years old, had a vascular age similar to a person and 35 or 40 years”.
“And they had an expression of proteins [conhecidas por iniciar e facilitar a progressão da lesão aterosclerótica] in the blood that showed they had an inflammation activation of inflammatory pathways. Some proteins that are associated with the occurrence of some cancers were activated. Therefore, it is concluded that tobacco itself creates an inflammatory profile in the blood that can lead to vessel damage and create other diseases, because it causes small lesions in the cells over time”, he developed.
The study consisted of carrying out tests on a population of more than 1,500 smokers, former smokers and people who never smoked.
The sample included people aged between 18 and 70, most of whom were adults between 40 and 50.
According to information sent to Lusa by FMUP, “researchers found that, despite being about 18 years younger, current smokers had similar levels of hypertension, diabetes and vascular damage. [placas de colesterol e rigidez vascular] to those of older people who have never smoked”.
João Pedro Ferreira pointed out that cardiovascular damage was compared and that, when it was found that the vessel was more rigid, this means that it has less elasticity and is working worse.
“Being more rigid is like being damaged, being more aged”, he summarized.
The researcher maintained that the cases studied were not “necessarily” patients, as this was a population study in which the aim was to find out about habits and lifestyles.
“This is an observational study. We are looking at the characteristics of people compared to others. We cannot infer that there is causality. We cannot infer that tobacco causes diabetes. What we can say is that there is a relationship between people who smoked and some proteins that seem to indicate some lower tolerance to glucose, to sugar”, he exemplified.
Finally, João Pedro Ferreira highlighted that “the group that had already stopped smoking had attenuation of the effects, but these were not completely reversed”.
“Obviously, it’s good to stop smoking as soon as possible, but the study concludes that the vascular damage that had already occurred in the past registers improvements, but has not reversed”, he concluded, underlining that the study warns that, “even if the person feels well, there is damage that is happening in the body that is silent and that damage can have consequences” such as myocardial infarction or strokes, peripheral arterial disease, as well as cancer of the lung, throat or bladder.
According to data from the World Health Organization, tobacco is responsible for more than six million deaths worldwide each year.
Entitled “Impact of smoking on cardiovascular risk and premature aging: Findings from the STANISLAS cohort”, this study brings together João Pedro Ferreira and researchers Tripti Rastogi, Nicolas Girerd, Zohra Lamiral , Emmanuel Bresso, Erwan Bozec, Jean-Marc Boivin, Patrick Rossignol and Faiez Zannad.