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November 08, 2021

E-cigarette smokers have higher risk of stroke at younger ages, study finds

Adult Health E-cigarettes
Electronic cigarettes and stroke risk Lindsay Fox/Pixabay

Tobacco smoking is a known major risk factor for stroke, but new data suggest that adults who use electronic cigarettes have an even greater chance of having a stroke at a younger age than those who use traditional cigarettes.

New research released by the American Heart Association has shown that using electronic cigarettes is associated with a 15% higher risk of having a stroke at a younger age.

While tobacco smoking is known as a major risk factor for stroke, this study suggests that adults who use e-cigarettes have an even greater chance of having one at a younger age than those who use traditional cigarettes.

The findings were presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2021. 

The researchers examined data on 79,825 adults from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2015 to 2018. 

Participants in the study had a history of stroke and either used traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes or both.

E-cigarette users suffered their first stroke at a median average age of 48 years, compared to 59 years of age for people who smoked traditional cigarettes and 50 years of age for those who used both.

Overall prevalence of stroke, however, was higher in traditional cigarette smokers compared to those who used e-cigarettes or both. 

Of the women who experienced a stroke, 36.36% used e-cigarettes compared with 33.9% who smoked traditional cigarettes.

While e-cigarettes have become a popular way to quit smoking, there is still little data on the risks associated with it. 

"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," Dr. Karen L. Furie, chair the neurology department at Brown University, said. "These can cause damage to the blood vessels that results in atherosclerosis, but it 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."

The study data did not include information on the type or severity of the participants' strokes. The researchers said more research is needed to better understand the long-term health effects of e-cigarettes, especially their role in heart and stroke health.

"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," Furie said. "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."

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