E-cigarette use linked with heart failure

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Extensive study links e-cigarette use with increased risk of heart failure

A novel study has highlighted a distressing association between vaping and heart failure. (Image: Jo Panuwat D/Shutterstock)

WASHINGTON, US: In recent years, there has been an increase in studies on vaping and its link to oral and overall health. Adding to existing research, a new study has found that people who use e-cigarettes are at an increased likelihood of developing heart failure compared with non-smokers. The study is considered to be one of the largest and most comprehensive prospective studies to date to investigate possible links between vaping and heart failure.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart failure affects over six million adults in the US. Its symptoms can be debilitating and are often associated with frequent hospitalisation, especially in the elderly. Although the media has often presented vaping as a safer alternative to smoking, mounting research shows that it causes adverse oral and general health effects.

“More and more studies are linking e-cigarettes to harmful effects and finding that it might not be as safe as previously thought,” lead author Dr Yakubu Bene-Alhasan, a resident physician at MedStar Health in Baltimore, said in a press release. “The difference we saw was substantial. It’s worth considering the consequences to your health, especially with regard to heart health.”

Long-overdue research

Lead author Dr Yakubu Bene-Alhasan. (Image: Matilde Barbosa)

In the study, the researchers analysed the link between e-cigarette use and new cases of heart failure. They used data from surveys and electronic health records from the All of Us Research Program—a comprehensive nationwide study involving US adults conducted by the National Institutes of Health. The analysis included 175,667 participants with an average age of 52 years, 60.5% of whom were female. More than 3,000 of the study population were diagnosed with heart failure during a median follow-up period of 45 months.

The study found that e-cigarette users were 19% more likely to develop heart failure than those who had never used them, even after adjusting for demographic and socio-economic factors and other heart disease risks, including the use of alcohol and tobacco. It was observed that factors such as sex, age and tobacco smoking status did not alter the association between e-cigarette use and heart failure risk.

Additionally, the researchers reported that the increased risk associated with e-cigarette use was statistically significant for heart failure with preserved ejection fraction but not for heart failure with reduced ejection fraction. Heart failure with preserved ejection fraction occurs when the heart muscle contracts normally, but does not relax properly during filling. Heart failure with reduced ejection fraction is when the heart muscle does not contract effectively.

The results are consistent with earlier animal studies that suggested that e-cigarette use may have an impact on the heart in ways that contribute to the changes seen in heart failure. Similar studies in humans have also established connections between e-cigarette use and several risk factors for heart failure.

In light of the findings, there is an urgent need to further investigate the impact of vaping on heart health, especially because of its popularity among the youth.

“I think this research is long overdue, especially considering how much e-cigarettes have gained traction,” Dr Bene-Alhasan commented. “We don’t want to wait too long to find out eventually that it might be harmful, and by that time a lot of harm might already have been done.” He added that, with further research, more would be uncovered about the potential health consequences and better information could be made available to the public.

Editorial note:

The study’s findings have recently been presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 73rd Annual Scientific Session and Exposition.

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