Vaping causes ‘worrisome changes’ to people’s blood pressure, heart rate and fitness levels, research suggests.
Two new federally-funded studies indicate these changes happen even quicker in e-cigarette users than traditional tobacco smokers, in a worrying sign.
Vaping was previously billed as a safer alternative to cigarettes, which dramatically raise the risk of lung cancer, heart disease and other chronic conditions.
But stacks of evidence in recent years suggest the electronic alternatives cause similar damage in the body.
In one study published today, experts found vaping and smoking cause people’s heart rates to spike 15 minutes after use and put the body in ‘fight or flight’ mode.
Both groups also suffered a constricted brachial artery, which is the major blood vessel supplying blood to the arms and hands.
High blood pressure and constricted arteries can deprive the heart of oxygen-rich blood and, over time, increase the risk of heart disease.
In a second study, researchers carried out a series of cardiovascular tests after getting participants to run on a treadmill for 90 minutes.
Those who smoked or vaped performed significantly worse on all metrics, including how quickly heart rate recovered after exercise and how hard the heart had to work at peak levels.
Lead author of the study Dr Christina Hughey, from the University of Wisconsin, said: ‘The exercise performance of those who vaped was not significantly different than people who used combustible cigarettes, even though they had vaped for fewer years than the people who smoked and were much younger.’
Researchers found that vapers had as much heart damage as cigarette users, even though they are usually younger and have spent less time using the devices on average (file photo)
Vapes can damage the heart by restricting airways and reducing the amount of oxygen that gets pumped to the blood. Tests found that users had weaker hearts and took a longer time to recover after exercise (file photo)
Co-lead author Matthew Tattersall, an assistant professor of medicine at the university, added: ‘Immediately after vaping or smoking, there were worrisome changes in blood pressure, heart rate, heart rate variability and blood vessel tone (constriction).’
The results of both studies were presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions 2022.
It comes amid a vape epidemic in the US, with around 8million adults and 2.5m minors using the devices. More than 3m Brits are regular users.
While e-cigarettes are often marketed as healthy alternatives to typical cigarettes – they contain many harmful chemicals of their own.
E-liquids contain nitrosamines, which have been linked to cancer, while flavored vapes often include diacetyl, an irritant linked to the deadly condition ‘popcorn lung’.
Science is also beginning to show the devices can have as much a negative affect on heart health as smoking does.
In the latest study, researchers looked at data for 395 participants — 164 vapers, 117 smokers and 114 who had no history of nicotine, e-cigarette or tobacco use.
Researchers assessed blood pressure, heart rate, the diameter of the brachial artery in the arm and heart rate variability before vaping and smoking as well as 15 minutes afterwards.
Data show that people who vaped and those who smoked cigarettes had a pulse four beats per minute faster after a vape or smoke, whereas there was no change for the non-users.
The study also found that smokers and vapers had their blood pressure rise while using devices from 122/72millimeters of mercury (mm HG) to 127/77 mm Hg.
A second study, found vapers had worse exercise performance than non-smokers and that it was akin to that of smokers.
A first study found that people who vaped and smoked had an average heartbeat that was 4 beats per minute faster than those that avoided nicotine.
More than 2.5 million US children use e-cigarettes – rising a half-million from last year and reversing downward trends in recent years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC ) reports that 2.55 million Americans in middle or high school admit using the device in the past 30 days. It is a jump of 500,000, or of 24 per cent, from 2021. It is the first increase since the CDC started gathering annual data in 2019
America’s vaping crisis laid bare
Vaping has reached crisis levels in the US.
Around 8million adults use vapes while 2.6million teens use them, official data shows.
While the devices are considered to be safer alternatives to cigarettes, they carry many risks of their own.
The fluid in them contains harmful chemicals like cancer-causing nitrosamines and diacetyl, linked to the highly dangerous condition ‘popcorn lung’.
Recent data has linked long term use of vapes and e-cigarettes to a multitude of heart conditions.
These include a recent University of Louisville study that found that mice’s heart rates significantly dropped when exposed to the smoke.
Another NIH study found that using a vape increased the risk of developing heart disease at about the same rate as smoking cigarettes did.
Dr Tattersall added: ‘These findings suggest worse cardiovascular disease risk factors right after vaping or smoking, and activation of the sympathetic nervous system may play a role in the adverse responses seen immediately after using e-cigarettes and after exercise testing 90 minutes later.’
In a second study, the same participants were subject to a treadmill stress test.
After 90 minutes on the machine, they were given four heart screenings to determine overall health of the organ.
People who vaped scored 11 per cent lower than those who did not use nicotine.
Smokers had test scores 16 per cent lower than the control group.
They also had a larger difference from their reserve and maximum heart rate when exercising, signaling their hearts were working more during exercise.
The difference between reserve and exercising heart rate was 30 per cent higher among vapers and 40 per cent higher for smokers.
Smokers and vapers both achieved a lower cardiac workload that their peers who did not use nicotine and it took longer for their heartrate to return to normal after exercise.
While these findings are alarming, researchers warn that there is much more evidence about the downsides of using vapes.
Dr Aruni Bhatnagar, a professor of Medicine at the University of Louisville said: ‘These studies add to the growing body of science that shows similar cardiovascular injury among people who use e-cigarettes and those who smoke combustible cigarettes.
‘Additionally, it shows this cardiovascular risk is seen even among younger people who have a shorter history of nicotine use.’
‘People should know that e-cigarettes and combustible cigarettes contain addictive nicotine and toxic chemicals that may have adverse effects on their cardiovascular system and their overall health.’
Dr Bhatnagar was involved in research published last week that found exposure to e-cigarette smoke caused drastic reductions in the heart rates of mice.
Another study funded by the National Institutes of Health last week found the blood vessels of mice constricted when exposed to e-cigarette smoke.