Originally published on November 21, 2016
Could vaping help smokers lower their blood pressure, and avoid weight gain after quitting? If so, by switching from cigarettes to vapor products at an early age, smokers might be able to greatly reduce their risk for heart disease later in life.
A study looked at patients with hypertension (high blood pressure) who smoked cigarettes only, vaped only, or reduced cigarette use by also vaping. The were clear: the smokers who greatly reduced or eliminated cigarette consumption by vaping had “significant reductions” in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
The study was led by Dr. Riccardo Polosa of the University of Catania (Italy), and published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. He has done other work examining the effects of vaping, including a study that found that eliminating or reducing smoking with e-cigarettes actually reversed damage from smoking in asthmatic patients.
Why does blood pressure matter?
Heart disease and stroke are among the primary causes of premature death among smokers. Smokers have twice the risk of non-smokers for a fatal cardiovascular event over the next 10 years of life, and young smokers are five times more likely than non-smokers to have a heart attack. Cigarette smoke causes the arteries to stiffen and sustains low-grade systemic inflammation, both of which can lead to hypertension. Hypertension makes the smoker’s risk of dangerous cardiovascular events even greater.
According to the authors, there isn’t much information about the long-term effects of smoking cessation on blood pressure for smokers with established hypertension. Further, the benefit of quitting smoking is often offset by weight gain among former smokers. Weight gain itself is a risk factor for hypertension and heart disease, which complicates the analysis.
Polosa and his team found that the smokers who use e-cigarettes have limited their post-cessation weight gain substantially compared to ex-smokers who don’t vape. “The trivial post-cessation weight gain after switching to regular [e-cigarette] use might have contributed to the positive long-term effects of smoking cessation on BP and BP control,” they conclude.
Despite some limitations (sample size, no control over other lifestyle factors, self-reporting of smoking patterns), the study indicates that vaping could play an important role in helping smokers reduce their risk of serious cardiovascular harm. “Regular [e-cigarette] use may aid smokers with arterial hypertension reduce or abstain from cigarette smoking, with only trivial post-cessation weight gain,” they conclude. Larger studies could confirm the findings.