What you need to know about vaping and stroke


As vaping grows into an epidemic among teens, and an estimated one out of 20 Americans use e-cigarettes (American College of Cardiology), new research is shedding light on how this controversial trend presents real dangers for increased risk of stroke, heart attack and coronary heart disease. 

Robustly marketed for its cool, discreet designs, alluring flavors like clove, vanilla and cotton candy, and non-tobacco qualities, vaping has fast become a favorite mode for smoking cessation, and a popular pastime for teens. In fact, vaping among young people increased by 900 percent from 2011-2015. And in 2018 alone, e-cigarette use nearly doubled for high school students, with more joining the vape train every day, unaware of potential consequences for lack of information. (American Heart Association)

What is vaping?

Vaping occurs when its user inhales and exhales aerosol, often referred to as vapor, produced by a battery-powered device that can deliver nicotine and flavorings. While it’s true that e-cigarettes are tobacco-free, they can still contain harmful substances including heavy metals like lead, volatile organic compounds, cancer-causing agents and high concentrations of nicotine, threatening to addict a whole new generation with each use. As for those vaping to quit smoking, the Wall Street Journal reported a study finding that 90% of smokers who vaped at the start of the research were still smoking one year later. 

Although fancy new vaping devices and flavors continue to be introduced and marketed to the masses, scientists and researchers are ramping up studies to expose the sobering pitfalls of vaping, much like they did decades ago for tobacco smoking, which saved many lives in its wake.

Breaking through with research

In a study published June 14, 2018 in the Journal of the American Heart Association, mice were exposed to two daily sessions of vapor from a top-selling brand of e-cigarette liquid over five days. A second group of mice used as a control was exposed only to clean air.

The study found that the blood’s clot-forming platelets in mice exposed to e-cigarette vapors became hyperactive, resulting in the formation of blood clots and an increased risk of a heart attack or stroke.

Another study published June 14, 2018 in the American Heart Association Journal showed how researchers tested nine chemical flavorings commonly used in e-cigarettes – mint, burnt flavor, vanilla, cinnamon, clove, butter, strawberry, banana and spicy cooling – to determine their short-term effects on endothelial cells. These important cells line the blood vessels and the inside of the heart, helping to controlvascular relaxation and contraction as well as blood clotting.

At the highest levels tested, all nine chemicals caused cell death, with particular sensitivity to burnt flavor, vanilla, cinnamon and clove flavorings. Even at low concentrations, the chemicals caused blood vessel inflammation, which can lead to stroke. 

These studies, backed by the American Heart Association, provide powerful evidence of the damaging effects vaping can cause.

Stay heart healthy

More than 80 percent of all cardiovascular events are preventable through lifestyle changes. Saying no to e-cigarettes is a great place to start. Remember, the choices you make now can affect your heart and vascular health down the road. Follow these tips to help ensure your future is a healthy one.

• Eat heart healthier – Choose more vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, whole grains and fish, and limit salt, saturated fats, fried foods, processed meats and sugar

• Exercise regularly – Aim for at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercises

• Watch your weight – Lose those extra pounds by eating fewer calories and moving more

• Avoid tobacco by not smoking, vaping or breathing in smoke

• Manage conditions – Work closely with your health team if you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or other conditions 

• Take your medicines – Follow directions and avoid daily aspirin unless your doctor recommends

• Be a team player – Communicate with your Encompass Health rehabilitation team, letting us know about challenges in your life as you recover from a stroke or cardiac condition.