Researchers have identified the chemical compound in cigarette smoke that is linked to heart disease, according to researchers at the University of Florida. Prior to the study, researchers knew that cigarette smoke caused heart disease but they had not been able to pinpoint the chemical compound in cigarette smoke that is associated with this link.
“Smoking-related health hazards are well-recognized, and the role of smoking in promoting premature heart disease is widely appreciated,” said Arshag Mooradian, senior author of the study and a professor and chair of the department of medicine at the UF College of Medicine-Jacksonville, in a statement. “The novelty in our study is the finding of yet another mechanism by which smoking can accelerate heart disease through reduction of the ‘good’ cholesterol that normally protects the heart.”
This finding, researchers say, has far-reaching implications for public health officials and smokers. Not only is the chemical, called benzo(a)pyrene, found in cigarette smoke but it is also found in wildfire smoke that occasionally clogs the air of cities across the country during wildfire season.
Researchers say that smoking increases blood pressure, makes exercise more difficult and raises the likelihood of blood clotting. Smokers also have lower HDL levels than nonsmokers and low HDL levels, research proves, can lead to heart attacks.
“The importance of this study is twofold: first, to understand and perhaps intervene on the heart-toxic effects of cigarette smoking,” said George Griffing, an internal medicine professor at the Saint Louis University School of Medicine, in a statement. “But second, and more importantly, to better understand the regulation of HDL levels with the goal of developing a strategy of raising HDL levels to combat heart disease.”
The results of the study were published in a recent edition of the journal Life Sciences.