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E-cigarette Use Negatively Affects Lipid Levels and Myocardial Blood Flow

In This Article

  • Researchers presented findings from two studies on the effects of e-cigarette use on cardiovascular health
  • The risks of e-cigarette use conflict with the widespread opinion that vaping is a safer alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes
  • Emily Lau, MD, and Islam Elgendy, MD, of Massachusetts General Hospital share their reactions to the results of the studies and what they mean for physicians and patients

According to the results of two separate studies presented at the 2019 American Heart Association Scientific Sessions, e-cigarette use was associated with decreased myocardial blood flow and abnormal lipid levels, contradicting the popular opinion that the devices are safer than traditional cigarettes.

In one study, researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine measured lipid levels after e-cigarette use among a group that included nonsmokers, e-cigarette smokers and traditional cigarette smokers. They determined that compared with nonusers, sole e-cigarette use was associated with elevated total cholesterol and LDL, while dual-use (both e-cigarettes and traditional cigarettes) was associated with lower HDL.

Another study conducted by researchers at the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai showed that e-cigarettes decreased myocardial blood flow after inhalation at rest and after physiological stress. Traditional cigarettes, on the other hand, increased blood flow modestly after inhalation, then decreased blood flow with subsequent stress.

Speaking with Healio, cardiovascular fellow Emily Lau, MD, of the Corrigan Minehan Heart Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, says that these findings offer important insights into the cardiovascular safety profile of e-cigarettes, which has been unclear since the devices became widely popular. Dr. Lau says that because physicians still cannot fully understand the health effects of e-cigarettes, it is their responsibility to advise patients against smoking e-cigarettes and alternatively focus on proven smoking cessation therapies.

Responding to the same findings, research fellow Islam Elgendy, MD, agrees that the effects of e-cigarettes on cardiovascular disease (CVD) have not been studied enough for the devices to be a safer alternative for smokers. Because e-cigarette use is associated with an unfavorable lipid profile, it puts consumers at a higher risk for CVD.

Dr. Elgendy says that efforts should be immediately focused on counseling youth about the health risks of e-cigarettes, citing a study that showed that almost one-fourth of high school students and one-tenth of middle school students have used the devices.

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