The medical community has known for decades that smoking increases the risks of high blood pressure and heart disease, but what about vaping? Both usually contain nicotine, but is nicotine really the chief concern?
Scientists have determined that smoking combustible cigarettes tends to constrict the arteries in the cardiovascular system, and it is also widely assumed that these nicotine-induced vasoconstricting properties are what leads to high blood pressure in smokers. However, since the rise in popularity of vaping as a 95 percent less harmful alternative to smoking, several studies now indicate that it is the tar produced in cigarette smoke that is the truly life-threatening culprit.
Related Article: Tobacco expert: ‘People smoke for nicotine, but they die from tar’
Tar is only produced from the burning of tobacco leaves, and since the e-liquids used in vaping are 100 percent tobacco-free, they are considered far less constrictive on the arteries. Furthermore, the e-liquids used in vape devices lack the nearly 6,000 toxic chemicals used in the manufacturing of conventional tobacco cigarettes – over 700 of which are known carcinogens.
To understand this scientific data more clearly, scientists from Greece and Italy teamed up to conduct a study whose findings were recently published in the medical journal Internal and Emergency Medicine. Led by world-renowned cardiologist and tobacco harm reduction expert Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos of the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Centre in Athens, Greece, and the equally esteemed Dr. Polosa of the University of Catania, Italy, the study compares the immediate and long-term cardiovascular effects among smokers versus vapers.
The study: Vaping and high blood pressure
Over a 12-month timeframe, the Polosa and Farsalinos research team monitored the myocardial functions of 211 volunteer participants. Some were strictly vapers. Some were strictly smokers. And others were dual users.
All participants were carefully selected from an existing group of volunteers who had previously been involved with the testing protocols related to the 2013 ECLAT study. The primary focus of this earlier research was to determine the possible success rates of permanent smoking cessation via a transition to vaping. By choosing these ECLAT participants, Polosa and Farsalinos could take advantage of the extensive portfolio of cardiovascular data previously compiled on each subject.
- 145 of the 211 participants were already pre-diagnosed with high blood pressure, with the other 66 participants exhibiting early signs of elevated heart rates.
- Participants in the strictly vaping group were divided into three categories: Low, medium, and high strength nicotine concentration levels of e-liquids being vaped.
- Participants in the strictly smoking group were provided the same over-the-counter conventional cigarettes.
- All vapers were provided identical vaping devices.
At 3-month, 6-month, 9-month, and 12-month intervals, the researchers would evaluate each participant’s comparable heart rates and blood pressure levels while also monitoring their vaping, smoking, and nicotine-intake rates simultaneously. What the Polosa-Farsalinos team determined is that improvements in blood pressure levels were inversely proportional to the amounts of combustible cigarettes that they smoked. In other words, smokers had the highest ratings, dual users had the second-highest, and vapers had the lowest.
“When the same analysis was repeated in 66 subjects with elevated BP at baseline, a substantial reduction in systolic BP was observed at week 52 compared to baseline (132.4 ± 12.0 vs. 141.2 ± 10.5 mmHg, p < 0.001), with a significant effect found for smoking phenotype classification. After adjusting for weight change, gender and age, reduction in systolic BP from baseline at week 52 remains associated significantly with both smoking reduction and smoking abstinence. In conclusion, smokers who reduce or quit smoking by switching to e-cigarettes may lower their systolic BP in the long term, and this reduction is apparent in smokers with elevated BP. The current study adds to the evidence that quitting smoking with the use of e-cigarettes does not lead to higher BP values, and this is independently observed whether e-cigarettes are regularly used or not.”
Because of its vasoconstricting properties, scientists in many fields of medical expertise are now reconsidering the bad reputation of nicotine. As far back as 2007, research has indicated that nicotine therapies (not “smoking”) can be of extreme benefit to women experiencing pregnancy-induced hypertension. Researchers specializing in the fields of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s are also discovering evidence that nicotine therapies may slow or even reverse the progression of these diseases dramatically.
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