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Vaping may cause "substantial" heart failure risk increase

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Vaping might not be as safe as we once thought, especially when it comes to the health of our heart.

As of 2021, 4.5 percent of U.S. adults used e-cigarettes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaping is particularly prevalent among young people, with roughly one in seven high school students using e-cigarettes, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

While vaping may be a safer alternative to smoking tobacco, previous studies have associated e-cigarette use with an increased risk for lung disease, asthma, damaged blood vessels and heart disease, particularly among those with preexisting health conditions. Now, a large study lead by MedStar Health in Baltimore has shown that e-cigarette users may be 19 percent more likely to develop heart failure compared to those who have never vaped.

Image of a young person using an e-cigarette. Vaping has been particularly prevalent among younger people, who may be more at risk of its potential health impacts. AleksandrYu/Getty

"More and more studies are linking e-cigarettes to harmful effects and finding that it might not be as safe as previously thought," Yakubu Bene-Alhasan, a resident physician at MedStar Health in Baltimore and the study's lead author, said in a statement.

"The difference we saw was substantial. It's worth considering the consequences to your health, especially with regard to heart health."

In their study, the results of which will be presented at the American College of Cardiology's Annual Scientific Session, which is being held between April 6 and April 8, Bene-Alhasan and colleagues analyzed data from surveys and electronic health records to investigate the association between e-cigarette use and heart failure. The study looked at 175,667 participants in total, with an average age of 52 years old, 3,242 of whom developed heart failure within the average 45-month follow-up period.

Those who used e-cigarettes were found to be 19 percent more likely to develop heart failure than those who had never vaped, even after other heart disease risk factors and use of alcohol and tobacco products were accounted for.

This association was particularly significant among those experiencing heart failure with preserved ejection fraction, which occurs when the heart muscle becomes stiff and does not properly fill up with blood between contractions. This type of heart failure has been on the rise in recent decades, so establishing its potential risk factors is important for public health.

The findings of the study align with previous studies in animals, relating e-cigarette use to cardiovascular issues and heart disease. However, this study is still purely observational and more work will be needed to confirm any molecular mechanisms underpinning this association. Even so, the large sample size and detailed data used in the study highlights the importance of further research in this area.

"I think this research is long overdue, especially considering how much e-cigarettes have gained traction," Bene-Alhasan said. "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. With more research, we will get to uncover a lot more about the potential health consequences and improve the information out to the public."

Is there a health problem that's worrying you? Do you have a question about vaping? Let us know via health@newsweek.com. We can ask experts for advice, and your story could be featured on Newsweek.

Uncommon Knowledge

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

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