In the study, which was published in the Feb. 1 issue of online journal JAMA Cardiology, researchers discovered that two risk factors for heart disease were present in 16 e-cigarette users, compared to the absence of the risk factors in 18 nonsmokers.
Cardiologist Holly Middlekauff, a coauthor of the study, said “the pattern was spot-on” for what has been found in heart attack victims as well as heart disease patients and diabetics.
The participants of the study who used e-cigarettes displayed a heartbeat pattern that is associated with epinephrine, or high levels of adrenaline, a known indication of heart disease risk. Researchers also discovered indications of increased oxidative stress, meaning the molecules that protect the arteries from narrowing or hardening are at an imbalance.
According to Aruni Bhatnagar of the American Heart Association Tobacco Regulation and Addiction Center based at the University of Louisville in Kentucky, the study “adds to the case that there may be some residual harm associated with e-cigarettes.”
E-cigarettes have also been linked to lung inflammation, and have also been found to contain toxic disease- and cancer-causing chemicals such as diacetyl, formaldehyde and acetoin. Diacetyl alone is associated with serious lung diseases such as bronchiolitis obliterans, a condition in which the smallest airways become scarred and restricted. Combine that with addictive substances such as nicotine, a chemical also known to elevate adrenaline levels, and you have a perfect storm of disease.
The findings show that the heart of e-cigarette users are in “fight or flight” mode at all times, not just when vaping, Middlekauff says.
“Electronic cigarettes aren’t harmless,” says Middlekauff. “They have real, measurable physiological effects and these physiological effects, at least the couple that we found, have been associated with heart disease.”