E-cigarettes increase stroke risk at earlier ages than conventional cigarettes

DALLAS, Texas — Experts warn that vaping can cause strokes at a younger age than smoking cigarettes. According to scientists, adults who use e-cigarettes run the risk of suffering a stroke 11 years earlier than tobacco smokers.

It is common knowledge that by smoking cigarettes, users put themselves at risk of having a stroke or a heart attack. Now, researchers with the American Heart Association say those who vape have a 15-percent higher risk of having a stroke at a younger age in comparison to those who smoke regular tobacco products.

According to the new study, smoking claims nearly 480,000 lives prematurely every year in the United States. Despite the growing popularity of nicotine-filled e-cigarettes, there are only a few reports on their safety, risks, and how successful they are at helping people to quit smoking.

E-cig users may have a stroke in their 40s

To learn more about how e-cigarettes impact the blood flow of the brain, researchers examined a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2015 to 2018 to identify smokers who had a history of strokes. Among the 79,825 adults, 7,756 used vapes, 48,625 used traditional cigarettes, and 23,444 used both. The team found that although strokes were more prevalent among traditional cigarette smokers, e-cigarette smokers had a higher chance of suffering a stroke at a younger age. The study finds e-cigarette users were just 48 years-old at the time of their first stroke. The average age for a traditional smoker suffering a stroke came in at 59 years-old.

“The public needs to know that the safety of e-cigarettes has not been proven and [they] should not be considered as an alternative to traditional smoking, especially among people with existing risk factors such as a history of heart attack, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol,” says Dr. Urvish Patel, Mount Sinai’s chief education officer in the department of public health and neurology, in a media release.

“Many people are aware that nicotine is a chemical in vaping products as well as in conventional cigarettes, however, there are lots of other chemicals included that can directly affect the lining of the blood vessels. These can cause damage to the blood vessels that results in atherosclerosis, but they can also cause injury that weakens the strength of the blood vessels, predisposes to clot formation, and can damage the blood vessels over time so that individuals are at risk for both the ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke,” adds Dr. Karen Furie, the chair of the department of neurology at Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School.

No safe alternative to smoking?

“It’s quite possible that exposure at a younger age may cause irreversible damage to blood vessels throughout the body and particularly in the brain. I think it’s important that young people understand that e-cigarettes are not a safe alternative and that the best way to preserve brain health and prevent stroke is to avoid all cigarettes and nicotine products,” Dr. Furie continues.

“These findings have clear implications for physicians, health care policymakers, and tobacco product regulatory authorities who are advocating for new regulations on e-cigarette access, sales, and marketing,” says Dr. Neel Patel, the study’s other co-lead author.

The researchers found access to the data on the type or severity of the participants’ strokes limited the results of the study.

“People need to be warned that e-cigarettes should not be promoted as an alternative option to smoking traditional, combustible cigarettes,” says Dr. Patel.

The team also says that more research is necessary to better understand why e-cigarette may be more harmful to younger age groups when it comes to stroke risk.

Researchers are presenting their findings at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2021.

South West News Service writer Georgia Lambert contributed to this report.