E-cigarettes associated with increased blood pressure, heart rate, and arterial stiffness, study reveals

A new study, presented at the European Respiratory Society International Congress, suggests that use of e-cigarettes with nicotine causes arterial stiffness in humans, and has significant consequences leading to risk of heart disease and stroke later in life.

Dr Magnus Lundbäck, research leader and clinical registrar at the Danderyd University Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden conducted a study in which he stated that there has been a dramatic increase in the number of e-cigarette smokers. E-cigarettes are often considered harmless by society.

E-cigarette companies promote their product as an approach to help people to quit smoking tobacco and to reduce harm. Nevertheless, the safety of e-cigarettes is disputed, and increasing evidence indicates numerous adverse health effects.

Dr. Lundbäck further stated: "The results are preliminary, but in this study we found there was a significant increase in heart rate and blood pressure in the volunteers who were exposed to e-cigarettes containing nicotine. Arterial stiffness increased around three-fold in those who were exposed to nicotine containing e-cigarettes compared to the nicotine-free group."

The study was performed on 15, healthy, young participants, who were occasional smokers (maximum of ten cigarettes per month) and had not smoked e-cigarettes before conducting this study. Average age of the participants was 26, of which 41% were male and 59% female.

The participants were randomly assigned e-cigarettes with or without nicotine, which the participants smoked for half an hour before coming back another day to smoke the other type of e-cigarette. Their heart rate, blood pressure, and arterial stiffness were measured immediately after smoking the e-cigarettes, and then 2 and 4 hours later.

A significant increase in the arterial stiffness, blood pressure, and heart rate were observed in the first half hour after smoking e-cigarettes containing nicotine, while no such effect was observed on arterial stiffness and heart rate in participants who had used non-nicotine e-cigarettes.

According to Dr Lundbäck, the immediate rise observed in arterial stiffness is mostly associated to nicotine, and it was temporary. Nevertheless, the same short-term effects on arterial stiffness were also observed after smoking normal tobacco cigarettes.

Therefore, it is speculated that the long-term use of e-cigarettes with nicotine may result in chronic and permanent effects on arterial stiffness. So far, there are no studies on the chronic effects on arterial stiffness after the long-term use of e-cigarettes.

Dr Lundbäck further added that it is essential that the conclusions of this and other studies reach healthcare professionals providing preventive health care and the general public. The results of the study emphasize the need for maintaining a cautious and critical attitude toward e-cigarettes, especially by healthcare service providers.

Based on scientific facts, e-cigarette smokers must be aware of their possible health effects, so that they can decide on whether to continue or quit smoking them.

He further remarked that the e-cigarette marketing campaigns target conventional tobacco smokers and offer an alternate product. Nevertheless, numerous studies question the e-cigarette as an approach to quit smoking, and there is a high-risk of double use, where people smoke both conventional cigarettes and e-cigarettes.

Dr Lundbäck and his group of researchers are continuing to examine the effects of e-cigarettes on lung functions and blood vessels in humans and in cell cultures.

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