Study Says Even One Cigarette Harmful

New research has concluded that just one <"">cigarette can adversely affect young adults, reports ScienceDaily, citing research presented by Dr. Stella Daskalopoulou at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress 2009. The Congress was co-hosted by the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Canadian Cardiovascular Society, said ScienceDaily.

Dr. Daskalopoulou’s study revealed that just one cigarette can increase arterial stiffness in people 18 to 30 years of age by a surprising 25 percent, according to ScienceDaily. Stiff—or rigid—arteries can lead to cardiac issues because vessel resistance is increased and the heart has to work harder, which can lead to heart disease and stroke risk, explained ScienceDaily.

“Young adults aged 20-24 years have the highest smoking rate of all age groups in Canada,” said Dr. Daskalopoulou, who is an internal medicine and vascular medicine specialist at McGill University Health Centre, quoted ScienceDaily. “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,” Dr. Daskalopoulou added.

This study compared arterial stiffness in young smokers who smoked about five cigarettes daily versus nonsmokers with “arterial measurements” taken from the wrist, or radial artery, the neck or carotid artery, and the groin or femoral artery, explained Science Daily. The median participant age was 21 and measurements were taken after exercise, at rest, and after ingesting nicotine, said ScienceDaily.

The test used to measure the stiffness is relatively new, but is considered “well established,” said Science Daily, noting that the arterial stress test is called applanation tonometry; was introduced by Dr. Daskalopoulou; and measures arterial response to exercise stress, which is similar to the test used to measure cardiac stress. “In effect we were measuring the elasticity of arteries under challenge from tobacco,” Dr. Daskalopoulou pointed out.

Baselines were taken and measurements tracked after not smoking, smoking one cigarette, and chewing nicotine gum, said Science Daily. According to the research, arterial stiffness was reduced in the nonsmoking group by 3.6 percent following exercise, but increased by 2.2 percent in the smoking group; after chewing nicotine gum, the level increased by 12.6 percent and by 24.5 percent after smoking just one cigarette, said Science Daily. There was no measurable difference in at rest measurements between the two groups.

“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,” said Dr. Daskalopoulou, quoted Science Daily. “It seems that this compromise to respond to physical stress occurs first, before the damage of the arteries becomes evident at rest.”

There are about 443,000 deaths and $100 billion spent in healthcare costs annually in the United States linked to tobacco use. A prior Associate Press (AP) report noted that over 126 million nonsmokers in this country are exposed to tobacco smoke on an ongoing basis and, in 2006, the surgeon general announced that “overwhelming scientific evidence” was associated with tens of thousands of fatalities from cardiac disease, lung cancer, and other deadly diseases due to second- and third-hand smoke.

Smoking has been most commonly linked to lung cancer; however, heart disease is actually more closely linked to the habit, the AP pointed out, adding that nearly one-third of all U.S. heart attacks are connected to smoking.

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