E-cigarettes linked to increased arterial stiffness, BP and heart rate
New research presented at the European Respiratory Society International Congress in September has shown for the first time that e-cigarettes with nicotine cause a stiffening of the arteries which is associated with an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes in later life.
Although the results are preliminary, the study found there was also 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.
Dr Magnus Lundbäck and colleagues from Danderyd University Hospital, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm recruited 15 young, healthy volunteers who were randomised to use e-cigarettes with nicotine for 30 minutes on one of the study days and e-cigarettes without nicotine on the other day. The researchers measured blood pressure, heart rate and arterial stiffness immediately after smoking the e-cigarettes and then two and four hours later.
In the first 30 minutes after smoking e-cigarettes containing nicotine, there was a significant increase in blood pressure, heart rate and arterial stiffness; no such effect was seen on heart rate and arterial stiffness in the volunteers who had smoked e-cigarettes without nicotine.
The increase in arterial stiffness was temporary, but this has also been demonstrated following use of conventional cigarettes. Chronic exposure to both active and passive cigarette smoking causes a permanent increase in arterial stiffness. Therefore, the researchers suggested that chronic exposure to e-cigarettes with nicotine may cause permanent effects on arterial stiffness in the long term. However, there are no studies on the long-term effects on arterial stiffness following chronic e-cigarette exposure.
These early data highlight the potential risks of inhaling nicotine through e-cigarettes. Healthcare professionals should take a careful approach towards using e-cigarettes in smoking cessation to ensure that users are aware of their potential dangers, so that they can decide whether to continue or quit based on scientific facts. It is important to investigate the possible long-term effects of daily e-cigarette use through studies that are funded independently of the e-cigarette industry.
Lundbäck M et al. Acute effects of active e-cigarette inhalation on arterial stiffness. Effects of air pollution on asthma and COPD session, Monday 11 September. Abstract no: OA1979.