How Vaping Toxic Chemicals Damage Your Blood Vessels
Vaping may create dangerous toxins that temporarily reduce blood flow and damage blood vessels, according to a new study. Vaping has risks, regardless of what you vape. Although it’s less risky than smoking cigarettes, the safest option is to avoid vaping and smoking altogether.
Research into the health effects of vaping is ongoing, and it may take some time before we understand the long-term risks.
How Vaping Affect Your Heart?
Preliminary research suggests vaping poses risks to heart health.
The authors of a 2019 review point out that e-liquid aerosols contain particulates, oxidizing agents, aldehydes, and nicotine. When inhaled, these aerosols most likely affect the heart and circulatory system.
A 2018 report from the National Academies Press (NAP) found significant evidence that taking a puff from a nicotine e-cigarette triggers an increase in heart rate.
The authors also described moderate evidence suggesting that taking a puff from an e-cigarette increases blood pressure. Both could affect heart health over the long term.
While the dangers of smoking cigarettes are very well established, the health effects of smoking electronic cigarettes aren’t clear. Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced an investigation into a string of mysterious vaping-related illnesses that have landed nearly 100 people in the hospital. [ Can Moonshine Drink Cause Your Health Problems? ]
How Vaping Affect Your Lungs?
Vaping is on the rise with teens — roughly 1 in 3 high school students say they vaped in 2018. The habit is putting them at risk for health consequences, and now, new research shows that nicotine might not be the only thing to blame.
Effects of vaping may spread further than the lungs, some studies suggest that vaping may have negative effects on the lungs, but more research is needed. In particular, a 2015 study examined the effects of flavored e-juices on both human lung cells and lung cells in mice.
The researchers reported a number of adverse effects on both types of cells, including toxicity, oxidation, and inflammation. However, these results aren’t necessarily generalizable to vaping in real life.
A 2018 study assessed the lung function of 10 people who had never smoked cigarettes immediately after vaping fluids either with or without nicotine.
The researchers concluded that vaping both with and without nicotine disrupts normal lung function in otherwise healthy people. However, this study had a small sample size, which means the results may not apply to everyone.
The same 2018 report from NAP found that there’s some evidence that e-cigarette exposure has adverse effects on the respiratory system, but that additional studies are required to understand whether vaping contributes to respiratory diseases.
In current study, the researchers wanted to investigate the effects of e-cigarettes on the body’s blood vessels and blood circulation.
To do this, they recruited 31 healthy adults who did not smoke; researchers tied a tight cuff around one thigh of each participant. They kept this cuff on for a couple minutes, restricting blood flow through a major vein and artery in the leg, known as the femoral artery and vein.
Then, the researchers took the cuff off and used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure participants’ blood flow. Typically, when blood is restricted in this way, there will be a demand for increased blood flow when the cuff is removed, because the tissue is starved of oxygen and nutrients, said senior author Felix Wehrli, a professor of radiologic science and biophysics at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.
Indeed, the researchers saw that when they removed the cuff, participants’ blood flowed much faster, reaching a peak velocity before dropping back down to normal levels after a minute or so. Next, the participants took 16 puffs of an e-cigarette that did not contain nicotine and once again had a cuff tied to their legs and their blood vessels imaged.
Post-vaping, the participants’ blood vessels did not dilate, or widen, as much as before to let blood through. In fact, after a participant smoked, the vessels dilated, on average, 34% less than they did before vaping. What’s more, blood acceleration was 25.8% slower, peak blood flow — the maximum blood flow through the vessels— was reduced by 17.5%, and oxygen levels in the vessels dropped by 20%.
The findings suggest that vaping, even just once, leads to temporary changes that impair blood vessel function, the authors said.
“This normal [blood circulation] response is blunted by e-cigarette exposure,” and the reason is likely because of the ingredients found in e-cigarettes, according to the author of the study. E-cigarettes come in a wide variety of brands and flavorings and so they may have a giant list of ingredients. But the basic ingredients, propylene glycol and glycerol, are pretty much the same, he added.
When propylene glycol and glycerol are heated to high temperatures, they form other substances that are known to be toxic, he said. In a previous paper, the same team showed that smoking e-cigarettes actually caused a “toxic immune response” in the endothelium, or blood vessel lining.
However, these studies looked only at the very short-term effects of vaping, and participants’ blood vessels returned to normal within an hour or so, Wehrli said. So the “effect we see is transient,” he said.
Extrapolating a bit, “one could argue” that if someone keeps on vaping all day, every day over years, the body doesn’t have time to revert to baseline — and vaping might lead to disease, Wehrli said. But future studies that follow people for many years will be needed to prove this, he added.
In addition, Dr. Michael Siegel, a professor of community health sciences at Boston University’s School of Public Health, who was also not a part of the study, agrees that this study confirms that e-cigarettes, even without nicotine, cause dysfunction in the blood vessels.
But because this effect is short-lived and completely reversible, “it should not be assumed from this research that vaping is a cause of heart disease or permanent blood vessel damage,” he said. “Further research will be needed to determine whether vaping poses a risk of irreversible blood vessel injury.” The study was published (Aug. 20) in the journal Radiology.