The more you smoke, the greater your chances of developing a common heart rhythm disorder that increases your risk of stroke and early death, researchers say.
"If you smoke, stop smoking, and if you don't smoke, don't start," said study author Dagfinn Aune, a postdoctoral researcher at Imperial College London.
Risk of atrial fibrillation
"We found that smokers are at increased risk of atrial fibrillation, but the risk is reduced considerably in those who quit," said Aune, who is also an associate professor at Bjorknes University College in Oslo, Norway.
Atrial fibrillation, or a-fib, will affect one-quarter of middle-aged American and European adults. A-fib causes 20% to 30% of all strokes, and boosts the chances of premature death.
For the new study, published July 12 in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, researchers analysed 29 studies that included nearly 678 000 people in North America, Europe, Australia and Japan.
Every 10 "pack-years" of smoking was associated with a 16% increased risk of developing a-fib. Pack-years are the number of packs of cigarettes smoked per day multiplied by the number of years a person has smoked.
When compared to people who never smoked, the risk of developing a-fib was 32% higher among current smokers, 21% higher among current and former smokers combined, and 9% higher among former smokers, the researchers said.
"Our results provide further evidence of the health benefits of quitting smoking and, even better, to never start smoking in the first place," Aune said in a news release from the European Society of Cardiology.
"This is important from a public health perspective to prevent atrial fibrillation and many other chronic diseases," he added.
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