Some people turn to vaping or inhaling vapor from electronic cigarettes, to avoid the health risks associated with smoking tobacco cigarettes. However, two recent studies demonstrate that e-cigarettes are just as risky – if not more deadly – than regular cigarettes when it comes to heart health.
According to the American Heart Association, researchers found that e-cigarette smokers have more unfavorable heart disease risk factors, such as total and LDL cholesterol, and that e-cigarettes reduce blood flow to the heart, in two different studies.
The first study indicated that vaping can aggravate multiple heart disease risk factors at levels comparable to smoking, while the second found that e-cigarettes reduce cardiac blood flow even more than smoking.
Effects on Cholesterol in the Blood
The first study looked at the effects of e-cigarettes on blood lipids and glucose levels. They gathered 476 healthy human subjects without cardiovascular disease who were either nonsmokers, e-cigarette-only smokers, e-cigarette and tobacco-cigarette smokers, or tobacco-cigarette-only smokers.
When compared to nonsmokers, solitary e-cigarette users had greater total cholesterol and LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol.
The findings show that tobacco smokers who move to e-cigarettes as a healthier alternative to tobacco will not profit from the switch, according to the researchers.
According to James Cireddu, MD, medical director of University Hospitals Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute at University Hospitals Bedford Medical Center, many factors impact the development of coronary artery disease and heart attacks, and cholesterol is one of them.
“Although we don’t understand all of the routes, the CITU study demonstrates that e-cigarette usage is linked to higher levels of harmful cholesterol like LDL and triglycerides,” Dr. Cireddu explains.
The Effect on Blood Flow
In the second trial, researchers looked at 19 young adult smokers’ cardiac blood flow, which is a marker of coronary vascular function, before and after they smoked either e-cigarettes or tobacco cigarettes. They used a myocardial contrast echocardiogram to look at the coronary vascular function while the subjects were at rest and after they did a handgrip activity to simulate physiologic stress.
Blood flow increased modestly following cigarette smoking in smokers who smoke tobacco cigarettes but then decreased with subsequent stress. Blood flow was reduced after inhalation at rest and after handgrip stress in individuals who vaped.
The findings demonstrate that e-cigarettes can cause just as much, if not more, harm to users, particularly those at risk for vascular disease, according to the researchers.
According to Dr. Cireddu, decreased blood circulation to the heart muscle is linked to a lower quality of life as a result of symptoms such as chest pain and shortness of breath.
“This little study found that e-cigarettes have the potential to reduce heart muscle blood supply not just during activity, like traditional cigarettes do, but even at rest,” he says.
“Smaller research like this encourages the medical community to prepare future studies that will reveal the full health costs of vaping on a day-to-day basis.”