E-cigarettes and the heart

University of Iowa cardiologist Milena A Gebska, M.D., tells her patients that it doesn’t make a difference which kind of cigarette they’re smoking—traditional or electronic—the risks to heart health suggest that her patients stop smoking immediately.

Nicotine, found in traditional and electronic cigarettes, has proven to constrict blood vessels, temporarily raise blood pressure and heart rate, and elevate glucose levels. Blood vessel constriction is never healthy and can be particularly dangerous in patients who already have high blood pressure (hypertension), diabetes, or atherosclerosis.

The increasingly popular electronic cigarettes were introduced in 2008. Commonly known as “e-cigs,” these battery-operated cigarette devices involve the inhalation of vapors from liquid nicotine.

E-cigarettes are a popular alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes. While e-cigarettes do not contain the tar and smoke of traditional cigarettes, they do contain nicotine, which increases the risk of heart and vascular disease.

Finding ways to quit

Dr. Gebska says she takes the time to discuss with her patients different options to help with smoking cessation. She is sure to mention the risks that come with smoking e-cigarettes to those looking to switch from smoking traditional cigarettes to e-cigarettes.

Unfortunately, smoking any form of cigarette has its negative long-term effects on the heart. Therefore, if you have or are at risk of developing heart disease, avoid smoking entirely. Dr. Gebska recommends regular moderate intensity exercise as a wonderful adjunct to a smoking cessation program.

Those dealing with smoking addiction and wish to quit should speak with their doctor.

The effects e-cigarettes have on the heart

The CEO of the American Heart Association worries there will be an increased risk of developing nicotine addiction and heart issues due to the attractive flavors and advertisements of e-cigarettes.

The AHA also recommends the government apply stricter e-cigarette regulation since the long-term effects of e-cigarettes on the heart are unknown.

The dangers of nicotine found in e-cigs

A study done at Brown University found that nicotine in cigarettes (including e-cigs) increases a smoker’s risk of cholesterol plaque build up inside of the arteries and developing atherosclerosis. Clogged vessels limit the flow of blood to and from the vital organs and may lead to pain in legs with walking (claudication), heart attack, and stroke.

According to the American Heart Association, non-smokers are also at risk. Involuntary exposure to nicotine given off by e-cigarettes is harmful in the same sense second-hand smoke given off by traditional cigarettes is harmful.

A final note

While smoking e-cigarettes may reduce the risk of cancer associated with tobacco use, the risk of heart disease remains.

Last reviewed: 
March 2018

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