The benefits of vaping when compared to smoking can never be overstated. Instead of inhaling 6,000 chemical compounds that cigarette smokers do on a daily basis, vapers only inhale around five (in addition to food-grade flavorings). Furthermore, a lot of studies examining ‘secondhand vapor’ are telling us that even that handful of chemicals is pretty much harmless. However, recent months have seen a growing concern among vapers (and those thinking about switching) about the effects of vaping on blood pressure.
Does Nicotine Cause High Blood Pressure?
Essentially, there’s a debate going on whether or not vaping can help smokers reduce prolonged blood pressure (hypertension). Believe it or not, this is a pretty convoluted topic. For years, it has been assumed that nicotine, because of its vasoconstricting properties, is the main reason why some smokers suffer from hypertension. However, recent research shows that nicotine doesn’t really affect blood pressure so much, other than raising it slightly while the cigarette is being smoked. Even NHS UK states that nicotine (smoking) doesn’t directly cause high blood pressure; they note that it does, however, contribute to heart disease and that it’s linked with worse outcomes for patients already suffering from hypertension.
In fact, if we remove smoking from the equation, it starts to look like that nicotine has a bunch of beneficial health-related properties. For example, a 2007 study found that it can prevent pregnancy-induced hypertension (don’t worry, expecting mothers didn’t smoke during this study; experiments conducted involved placentas).
There – we’ve just ruled out nicotine as a go-to culprit for hypertension and vapers vaping on high nic juices can breathe a collective sigh of relief.
In any case, you might ask yourself: ‘Why does it matter? What’s the big deal with slightly elevated blood pressure?’ Well, high blood pressure can cause all sorts of health issues, so let’s examine some of them to see why it’s best avoided.
The Health Consequences of High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a silent killer which puts extra stress on blood vessels and other organs, such as the heart, brain, and the kidneys. It often goes unnoticed but that doesn’t mean it’s not damaging your health in a myriad of different ways.
Potentially fatal conditions that can be caused by high blood pressure include:
- Heart failure
- Heart disease
- Peripheral arterial disease
- Kidney failure
As you can see, hypertension is not something to messed around with, even if you can’t feel its effects immediately.
It’s also important to mention that smoking, in general, can lead to all the listed health complication. Developing hypertension in addition to smoking greatly increases the chances of fatal outcomes, regardless of the age of the smoker. In fact, smokers are doubling their chances of having a fatal cardiovascular event during a 10-year period, and even young smokers are 5X more likely to have a heart attack than non-smokers.
This begs the question – can vaping offset some of the risk smokers are faced with, especially if they are already suffering from hypertension?
Vaping and Blood Pressure
The short answer?
Yes, if you’re a smoker battling hypertension, vaping can help you keep your high blood pressure in check. Although there are very few studies that look at the link between vaping and blood pressure, one recent one sounds promising for vapers and all those who are thinking about switching, concluding that smokers with elevated blood pressure can expect their BP to return to normal in the long run if they switch to vaping.
Dr. Riccardo Polosa, of the University of Catania, and his team conducted a study in 2016 that looked at cigarette users, vape users, and dual users with hypertension and tried to determine whether some behaviors carry a greater risk of negative outcomes as related to high blood pressure.
What they’ve found is that smokers who’ve completely switched to vaping have a greatly reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure. The study was rather difficult to perform because it involved self-reporting on cigarette smoking and it didn’t correct for other lifestyle choices. However, researchers note that the blood pressure reduction is too significant to attribute to anything else than vaping-assisted smoking cessation.
One of the things that researchers also looked at in this study is weight gain. Smokers with hypertension who quit smoking often gain weight, and that extra weight can cause hypertension in and of itself. Dr. Polosa notes that smokers who switched to vaping experienced minimal (trivial, as the paper calls it) weight gain, which doesn’t affect the positive effects gained by switching to vaping.
Vaping and Blood Pressure Controversy Resolved
As I’ve mentioned, because nicotine has sympathomimetic and vasoconstriction properties, recent studies that conclude that vaping with nicotine (or even smoking), doesn’t contribute to hypertension are regarded with a fair bit of skepticism.
Dr. Farsalinos, a leading expert on health and vaping, argues that this is because nicotine from vaping is not as readily absorbed into the blood as is the case with smoking, while acknowledging that nicotine does cause a spike in blood pressure while it’s being administered. However, he notes that it does not cause chronic hypertension.
In fact, his own research from 2016 indicates that smokers who quit with the help of e-cigarettes can expect a reduction in blood pressure and heart rate in the long-term, especially if they already had elevated BP. In that regard, it matches the results from Dr. Polosa’s study.
In conclusion, if you’re a vaper and you’re wondering if vaping causes high blood pressure, rest assured that you should not be alarmed – vaping and nicotine have not been linked to high blood pressure that persists. On the other hand, if you’re a smoker and already suffer from hypertension, you might want to consider switching to vaping. The studies are still few and far in between, but what we do know now is that vaping can help you keep your blood pressure in check and possibly reverse some of the damage your cardiovascular system has already sustained.