Is Vaping Bad for Your Heart - UnityPoint Health

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Vaping is bad for your lungs. After all, e-cigarettes use a battery-operated heating element to vaporize a liquid solution with ingredients that pose health concerns when inhaled into the lungs. But did you know, vaping also does a major number on your heart, too? Cardiologist Mahmoud Sharaf, MD, UnityPoint Heath, says while he’s seen six cases of vaping-related heart attacks, he’s concerned that number will skyrocket with the amount of young people now vaping.

Vaping Concerns: Heart Attack & Stroke

“Vaping is bad for your heart. The truth is people who vape are 56% more likely to have a heart attack than non-smokers and 30% more likely to suffer a stroke,” Dr. Sharaf says. 

In simplest terms, a heart attack is when part of the heart muscle isn’t getting enough blood. In terms of stroke, there are two main types of stroke, those that block arteries and those that cause arteries to bleed. As a reminder, arteries carry oxygen-rich blood away from the heart and toward other tissues and organs.

What Happens to the Heart While Vaping?

Just seconds after inhaling the vapor from an e-cigarette, nicotine, other compounds and organic materials are absorbed through the skin, lining of the nose, mouth and lungs and enters the bloodstream. Generally, substances from the liquid solution stay in your body about six to eight hours. During that time, your heart is especially vulnerable. Here's how Dr. Sharaf says vaping puts your heart in danger.

  • Cholesterol deposits. Vaping causes cholesterol deposits in arteries to become more unstable over time and more likely to rupture. When that happens, it can lead to clot formations in blood vessels that may cause a heart attack or stroke.
  • Heart rate and blood pressure. Within 30 minutes of use, vaping spikes your adrenaline, causing increased blood pressure and heart rate, which means a higher risk of heart attack.
  • Artery stiffness. With extended e-cigarette use, nicotine and other compounds in the vaping solution (acrolein) can cause stiffness in the arteries, a contributing factor to heart attack and stroke.
  • Blood clotting. The added preservatives, compounds and organic chemicals in the liquid solution negatively affect normal blood clotting function almost immediately after vaping.

Who Is Most at Risk While Vaping?

Vaping is dangerous in all age groups, but Dr. Sharaf is especially concerned about our youth.

“I’ve seen heart attacks in people in their mid-30s to early 40s only hours after vaping. That’s concerning, but the long-term effects of vaping are even more top-of-mind for me. Teens vaping now might be 18 and wouldn’t otherwise have had heart issues. But, if they continue vaping, their first heart problem might appear as early as their late 20s or early 30s,” Dr. Sharaf says.

According to a survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), e-cigarettes were the most commonly used tobacco product among high school (27.5%) and middle school students (10.5%). The number of users is only growing.

“If this trend holds steady, we can anticipate these respiratory and cardiac problems are only going to become more common. We must understand there is a delay between when you do something and when you feel the consequences of doing it. People don’t realize something you do in your lifestyle now can influence your health 20 years from now. It often takes 10-20 years to feel the full effect,” Dr. Sharaf says.

How to Quit Vaping

If you, or someone you love, is ready to quit vaping—start by scheduling an appointment with your doctor. They can make medication suggestions to help you transition off of nicotine and the other harmful chemicals in e-cigarettes.