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Mar 07, 2019

Study Links E-Cigarettes to Heart Attacks, Heart Disease and Depression

U.S. survey study links e-cigarette use to increased risk for heart problems and a host of other health issues.

E-cigarettes are far from safe, based on recent findings that link e-cigarette use to increased risk of heart attack, heart disease and depression. These findings will be presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 68th Annual Scientific Session and confirm the dangers of e-cigarettes, which are used by an estimated 1 in 20 Americans.

E-cigarettes—sometimes called vapes—are battery-operated, handheld devices that mimic the experience of smoking a cigarette. They work by heating the e-liquid, which may contain various levels of nicotine plus any number of flavors and other chemicals, to create a vapor that is inhaled and exhaled.

The problem is that just because e-cigarettes are different from traditional tobacco cigarettes doesn’t mean they’re safe. Since being introduced in 2007, sales have increased nearly 14-fold in the last decade. Unfortunately, we’ve only just begun to understand the potential health effects of this new trend.

The recent analysis included data from the National Health Interview Survey, which was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) between 2014-2017. The study included 96,467 U.S. adults, all of who completed surveys about their health and lifestyle during the study period.

Participants who reported using cigarettes some days or daily were considered “users,” while those who never used were defined as “non-users.”

Overall, researchers found e-cigarette users were 56% more likely to have a heart attack and 30% more likely to suffer a stroke than non-users. E-cigarette users were also 10% more likely to have heart disease and 44% more likely to have circulatory problems like blood clots compared to non-users.

Researchers also found that e-cigarette users were twice as likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and other emotional problems compared to non-users.

Most of these associations remained true after accounting for risk factors that impact health, such as age, sex and weight. Researchers note that e-cigarette users tended to be younger, with an average age of 33 years compared to 40 years old for non-users.

 “Until now, little has been known about cardiovascular events relative to e-cigarette use,” said Mohinder Vindhyal, MD, assistant professor at the University of Kansas School of Medicine Wichita and the study’s lead author. “These data are a real wake-up call and should prompt more action and awareness about the dangers of e-cigarettes.”

According to Vindhyal, there are now more than 460 brands of e-cigarettes and over 7,700 flavors. With e-cigarette use on the rise, especially among children and teens, experts worry about the potential health impacts both now and down the road.

“Cigarette smoking carries a much higher probability of heart attack and stroke than e-cigarettes, but that doesn’t mean that vaping is safe,” said Vindhyal, adding that some e-cigarettes contain nicotine and release very similar toxic compounds to tobacco smoking. “When the risk of heart attack increases by as much as 55 percent among e-cigarettes users compared to nonsmokers, I wouldn’t want any of my patients nor my family members to vape,” he concludes.

Additional research is needed to better understand the potential health effects of e-cigarette use, explain authors. However, data continues to show that vaping is far from safe, and experts recommend avoiding all types of smoking to protect both cardiovascular and overall health.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What are e-cigarettes?
  • E-cigarettes (short for electronic cigarettes) are battery-operated devices that heat up liquid nicotine into a vapor, which smokers inhale and exhale. Unlike regular cigarettes, e-cigarettes don’t contain tobacco. However, little is known about the long-term health effects of e-cigarette use.
  • Why does smoking increase risk for heart disease?

  • Smoking causes plaque build up in the arteries, which reduces the flow of blood to the heart and body, increasing blood pressure. Over time, this can put an extreme strain on the heart and other parts of the body.

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