Heart and Vascular Health E-cigarettes & Heart Health By Heart and Vascular Institute, February 27, 2015 Take a look at TV shows from the past, and you can see how common it was for people to smoke. For years, no one knew just how harmful cigarettes were to our health and that they were loaded with a number of addictive ingredients. In addition, cigarettes were later found to cause lung cancer and lung diseases such as emphysema. Today, many people avoid cigarettes or are trying to quit smoking. Sometimes, they will look to alternatives to traditional cigarettes to ween themselves off of them or get the “nicotine buzz” they’d get from lighting up a cigarette. Although we now know how harmful traditional cigarettes are, we’re still discovering the harmful effects of e-cigarettes, one alternative to paper cigarettes. How Do E-cigarettes Affect Heart Health? While not much research has been done on this topic yet, it’s important to understand how nicotine affects your heart and why quitting smoking – or never starting at all – is your best option. What Is Nicotine? Nicotine is a highly addictive substance that is found in tobacco. In traditional cigarettes, dried tobacco and other additives burn and turn into smoke, which is inhaled. E-cigarettes also contain nicotine, but in a liquid form. The nicotine in e-cigarettes heats up and turns into vapor that gets inhaled. Makers claim that they are a better choice for smokers because they do not have the tobacco and other additives of traditional cigarettes. Nicotine is harmful to the body in many ways. It can: Raise your blood pressure Raise your heart rate Make your blood vessels become narrow Put you at a higher risk of atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, a condition that can also raise your risk of a heart attack These factors can increase your risk for heart disease and other serious, potentially life-threatening conditions like heart attack or stroke. RELATED: How to Handle Nicotine Withdrawal Symptoms Why Is Quitting Smoking Good for My Heart? Quitting smoking doesn’t just do good things for your lungs – it does good things for your whole body, and the benefits begin right away. When you quit smoking, you’ll help your heart by: Lowering your heart rate Lowering your blood pressure Lowering your risk for atherosclerosis and blood clots Your risk of getting heart disease becomes much lower when you quit smoking. In fact, a year after you quit, your risk of heart disease decreases by 50 percent. RELATED: Butt Out: Tips for Quitting Smoking How Can I Quit Smoking? While quitting smoking isn’t always easy, people quit every day – even those who have smoked for years. Whether you smoke e-cigarettes or traditional ones, talk to your doctor about how you can stop. There are many programs that can provide you with support and guidance and help you get – and stay – on the path to a healthy, smoke-free heart. Interested in your heart health? Visit the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute to learn more about the risks and causes of many heart diseases, and find information on heart screenings in the Pittsburgh area.