Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and premature death in the United States, killing more than 480,000 people each year and costing more than $300 billion annually on smoking related illness.

As more people understand that smoking can lead to considerable damage on every organ and system throughout the body, some have turned to vaping, thinking it might be a safer alternative.

However, studies have shown that those who use electronic cigarettes have higher rates of heart attacks, stroke, depression, anxiety and circulatory problems than those who do not use e-cigarettes. Vaping also caused a 2019 outbreak of lung injury and deaths. And like traditional cigarettes, vaping does not spare users from nicotine addiction.

E-cigarettes consist of a battery that heats up a liquid, creating an aerosol that the user inhales. The vape liquids consist of a host of chemicals and metals that may be harmful, including nickel, tin, lead, flavorings, industrial chemicals, pesticides, caffeine and other ultra-fine particles. Some of these substances have been connected to an increased risk of cancer. Many substances found in vape products are completely unknown, unidentifiable chemicals.

When it comes to cardiovascular health, studies have shown that inhaling nicotine or tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) raises blood pressure and causes an adrenaline rush, which increases the heart rate.

Nicotine causes blood vessels to constrict which over time leads artery walls to become stiffer and less elastic. In addition, when blood vessels are narrowed, the amount of oxygen and nutrients that flows to organs and cells is decreased.

Preliminary research of rats investigated the impact of aerosols generated by a variety of vaping devices on the function of the endothelium, a thin membrane lining the inside of the heart and blood vessels. This layer of endothelial cells produces substances that help control blood clotting, blood pressure levels and immune function and help keep blood vessels healthy. Reduced endothelial function usually precedes the development of atherosclerosis, the build-up of fatty material on arteries, and it is often a predictor of a stroke or heart attack.

The results of the study showed that e-cigarette aerosol diminished blood vessel function comparable to the same effects of cigarette smoke.

Although vaping is clearly not safe, the industry continues to aggressively promote e-cigarettes as a healthier alternative to cigarettes and as a way to quit smoking. But whether someone is inhaling smoke from traditional cigarettes or aerosol from e-cigarettes, it is important for users to understand that even as scientists continue to learn exactly how e-cigarettes affect the body, it is clear that vaping is not good for heart health.

For questions about any of our cardiac, thoracic, or vascular services, please visit or call us at (512) 459-8753 to schedule an appointment.

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