New study shows link between secondhand smoke and cardiac arrhythmia

Following new studies from the UC Davis Health researchers, a prolonged indoor exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke can lead to changes in the cardiac alernans which is the heart’s electrical activity. Based on the authors, their study which was performed on mice has confirmed that the when cells regulating heartbeat are exposed to second-hand smoke, it alters them. While these findings may be new, it has expanded the existing knowledge of the negative effects of tobacco smoke on non-smoker’s cardiac function. This has been an area that has received very little attention in terms of research.

According to Crystal Ripplinger who is the lead author, the research on the effects of tobacco smoke on non-users has declined with the decline in the number of tobacco users. In addition, smoking still remains as the leading cause of many preventable illnesses among many Americans and the fact remains that bystanders still get exposed whether they are in their homes, in their cars, out in the casino, and when they go to those areas that have fewer or no tobacco-smoke protections. This is why it still remains important outlining all the health effects of thee exposures.

When compared to previous studies, this is the first one to focus on the cellular changes in the tissues in the heart in relation to tobacco smoke. Another thing that sets it apart from other studies is that it is about a heart condition rather than being established on those diseases associated with lifestyle and age like coronary artery disease and plaque buildup. Already, the relationship between second-hand tobacco smoking and coronary artery disease has already been established. There was, however, no previous research on it’s effect on the cellular changes in relation to arrhythmia that affects even those people without coronary artery disease.

The research was made successfully through the collaboration of Ripplinger and Chao-Yin Chen who is a professor of pharmacology, Kent Pinkerton who is a professor of pediatrics, and UC Davis Health investigators. In the study, mice were kept in a chamber that was specifically designed for testing the health effects of inhaled toxins. The mice were then exposed to a level of secondhand tobacco smoke that is same as that usually found in the public places.

The mice were exposed to the tobacco smoke for at least six hours a day and five days a week for a duration of four, eight, and 12 weeks. After that, their hearts were tested for any changes in electrical activity using high-speed imaging and electrocardiograms. To test for the hearts vulnerability to arrhythmias, they were paced at fast heart rates. The Calcium levels of the hearts were also tested since Calcium acts by regulating the contraction of the heart which makes the heart rhythm to remain normal at all times.

According to the findings, the hearts that were exposed to filtered air responded very normal while those that were exposed to secondhand smoke were unable to tolerate fast rates particularly during the 12th week of exposure. In addition, the calcium levels also did not respond as quick as was needed resulting to unstable heartbeats.

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