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Just one cigarette harms young arteries

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

A new study shows that just a few cigarettes a day can harm young arteries. One cigarette was found to increase stiffness in the arteries of 18 to 30 year olds by twenty-five percent.

The findings, presented by Dr. Stella Daskalopoulou at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress 2009, show how tobacco can harm young adults. Dr. Daskalopoulous says “Our results are significant because they suggest that smoking just a few cigarettes a day impacts the health of the arteries. This was revealed very clearly when these young people were placed under physical stress, such as exercise."

Arterial stiffness can leads to high blood pressure, and eventually can lead to heart attack and stroke. When the heart beats and the artery is stiff, the heart has to work harder, eventually causing the it to become larger and less efficient.

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The study tested arterial stiffness of young smokers to non-smokers, using a method called method applanation tonometry. The test is similar to a cardiac stress test, but instead of measuring the heart’s response to stress, it measures the response of the arteries to stress. When stressed, the arteries of smokers became stiffer. Conversely, those who did not smoke showed reduced stiffness in the arteries.

Dr. Daskalopoulou explains, "In effect we were measuring the elasticity of arteries under challenge from tobacco." An interesting finding was that the stiffness of arteries in smokers and non-smokers was the same at rest.

"In effect, this means that even light smoking in otherwise young healthy people can damage the arteries, compromising the ability of their bodies to cope with physical stress, such as climbing a set of stairs or running to catch a bus", says Dr. Daskalopoulou. "It seems that this compromise to respond to physical stress occurs first, before the damage of the arteries becomes evident at rest."

The study reinforces the damage that can occur from tobacco smoke and the impact on youth. Just a few cigarettes a day can harm young arteries. The findings are another reason to find a way to stop smoking. Speak with your doctor for medication help to stop smoking. According to the study, it takes few cigarettes to cause the arteries to become stiff, and the effect on youth is noteworty considering the number of young adults who smoke.



I wish my brother can could quit smoking.