AUG 26, 2018 9:00 AM PDT

E-cigarette Use Doubles Risk of Heart Attack

WRITTEN BY: Caitlin Williams

E-cigarettes are popular among teens and are the most commonly used form of tobacco among youth in the United States. They are readily available, come in a variety of e-liquid flavors, utilize alluring advertisements, and are believed to be safer than cigarettes. However, recent studies have determined that this is not the case and further study of health effects associated with e-cigarettes is necessary. A recent study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine examined the relationship between daily e-cigarette use and risk of heart attack.

Heart attacks, also known as myocardial infarction, occur when blood flow to the heart is blocked or restricted. When fat, cholesterol and other substances build up in arteries, they form a plaque. Eventually, the plaque breaks away and a clot forms, the cloth can disrupt blood flow to the heart leading to damage or destruction of heart muscle. Known risk factors for heart attack are high blood pressure, smoking, age, weight, physical activity, and stress among other things. Complications of a heart attack related to damage to the heart include abnormal heart rhythms, heart failure, and sudden cardiac arrest. One primary preventative method comprises maintaining healthy lifestyle factors, but how does a heart attack relate to a habit such as e-cigarette use?

E-cigarettes may deliver lower levels of carcinogens compared to conventional cigarettes, but they still deliver toxins that have been linked to increased cardiovascular and non-cancer lung disease risks. The recent study published by researchers at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) sought to examine the relationship between e-cigarette use and heart attacks. Researchers analyzed 69,452 people who were interview through National Health Interview Surveys in 2014 and 2016; the surveys included in-person interviewers asked participates about e-cigarette and cigarette use as well as recording history of heart attack. Of the 69,452 participants, 9,352 were current and former e-cigarette users, with 3.6 percent (333 participants) experiencing a heart attack at some point, with 6.1 percent being among those who used e-cigarettes daily. A quarter of the participants who used e-cigarettes had formerly smoked conventional cigarettes while 66 percent of current users still smoked conventional cigarettes.

Analysis of these participants showed that odds of having a heart attack were the same for those who continued to smoke conventional cigarettes as those who switched to e-cigarettes only. For those who used both the odds of having a heart attack were 4.6 times higher than those who had never used either product. The risks of e-cigarette use may dissipate quickly after discontinuing use, but that long-term damage to the cardiovascular system may not be seen yet due to the relatively recent availability and popularity of e-cigarettes. The results of the study show that e-cigarette use is not any safer regarding heart attack risk compared to conventional cigarette use, and that use of both increases heart attack risk. "The only way to substantially reduce the risk of a heart attack is to stop using tobacco," said senior author Dr. Stanton Glantz, a UCSF professor of medicine and direction of the UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education.

To learn more about how smoking and tobacco affects your heart watch the video below.

Sources: American Journal of Preventive Medicine, National Institute on Drug Abuse, Mayo Clinic


About the Author
Doctorate (PhD)
Caitlin holds a doctorate degree in Microbiology from the University of Georgia where she studied Mycoplasma pneumoniae and its glycan receptors. She received her Bachelor's in Biology from Virginia Tech (GO HOKIES!). She has a passion for science communication and STEM education with a goal to improve science literacy. She enjoys topics related to human health, with a particular soft spot for pathogens.
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