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Smokers are up to 45% more likely to suffer from deadly irregular heart beats, study finds

Smokers are up to 45 per cent more likely to suffer from irregular heart beats, new research suggests.

For every 10 cigarettes smoked a day, the risk of suffering from atrial fibrillation increases by 14 per cent, a study found today.

Study author Dr Dagfinn Aune, from Imperial College London, said: ‘If you smoke, stop smoking and if you don’t smoke, don’t start.

‘We found that smokers are at increased risk of atrial fibrillation, but the risk is reduced considerably in those who quit.’

Atrial fibrillation affects up to one in four adults in the UK and US, and is responsible for as many as 30 per cent of all life-threatening strokes. 

Smokers are up to 45 per cent more likely to suffer from irregular heart beats (stock)


The end of smoking is finally ‘in sight’, officials claimed in June 2017 following figures that suggested another drop in rates across the UK.

Just one in six adults now regularly light up cigarettes – with 680,000 having given up the habit completely in 2016.

The numbers of smokers dropped from 19.9 per cent in 2010 to just 15.5 per cent in 2016 in England alone, according to data from the Office for National Statistics.

Across all ages smoking prevalence is in decline, with the largest fall in 18-to-24 year olds, while e-cigarette use is on the rise in this age group.

Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Public Health England, said the UK has the second lowest smoking rate in Europe after Sweden, which proves that the Government’s tobacco-control policies are effective.

How the research was carried out 

The researchers analysed 29 studies carried out in Europe, North America, Australia and Japan.

The study review had a total of 677,785 participants, of which 39,282 suffered from atrial fibrillation.

The findings were published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

‘Results provide further evidence of the benefits of quitting’

Results further suggest that all smokers are 32 per cent more likely to develop atrial fibrillation, while those who have ditched the habit still have a nine per cent higher risk.

Compared to no cigarettes, smoking five, 10, 15, 20, 25 or 29 daily raises the risk of atrial fibrillation by nine, 17, 25, 32, 39 and 45 per cent, respectively. 

Dr Aune said: ‘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.’ Smoking also raises the risk of lung cancer, heart disease and pneumonia. 

The researchers add further studies are required to determine if ex-smokers’ atrial fibrillation risk can be reduced to that of those who have never used tobacco. 

Irregular heart beats, or atrial fibrillation, affects up to one in four adults (stock)

Irregular heart beats, or atrial fibrillation, affects up to one in four adults (stock)

Obese people are more likely to smoke due to ‘addictive’ genes 

This comes after research released last May suggested obese people are more likely to smoke.

For every 4.6kg/m2 increase in BMI, the risk of being a smoker rises by up to 19 per cent, a study found.

Genetic mutations may draw obese smokers to addictive behaviours, causing them to indulge in both nicotine and fattening foods, according to researchers from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, Lyon.

Previous research suggests smokers take in fewer calories, therefore obese people may start smoking to help them lose weight, the scientists add.

Alternatively, smokers may be more likely to have other unhealthy lifestyle habits that lead to obesity, such as a poor diet or being inactive.



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