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Vapers 20 per cent more likely to develop heart failure, study finds

Vaping “substantially” increases the risk of heart failure according a major study which will have implications for millions of Britons.

Researchers found e-cigarette users are almost 20 per cent more likely to develop heart failure over a four-year period compared with people who have never used them.

This increased risk was calculated after adjusting for typical factors that can cause the condition, such as obesity or whether the participants were smokers.

The US scientists behind the study, presented on Tuesday at an American College of Cardiology meeting, said their research is the most conclusive evidence yet that vaping may cause heart failure — an incurable condition when the heart is unable to pump blood around the body properly.

“More and more studies are linking e-cigarettes to harmful effects and finding that it might not be as safe as previously thought,” said Dr Yakubu Bene-Alhasan, MD, a resident physician at MedStar Health in Baltimore and the study’s lead author.

“The difference we saw was substantial. It’s worth considering the consequences to your health, especially with regard to heart health.”

For the study, researchers used data from surveys and electronic health records in a large national study of US adults.

The 175,667 study participants had an average age of 52 years and just over 60 per cent were female. Of this sample, 3,242 people developed heart failure within the next 45 months.

Breaking the data down by type of heart failure, the increased risk associated with e-cigarette use was statistically significant for heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF), a condition where the heart muscle becomes stiff and does not properly fill with blood between contractions.

However, this association was not significant for heart failure with reduced ejection fraction (HFrEF) – in which the heart muscle becomes weak and the left ventricle does not squeeze as hard as it should during contractions.

Rates of HFpEF have risen in recent decades, which has led to an increased focus on discovering risk factors and improving treatment options for this type of heart failure.

The findings align with previous studies conducted in animals, which showed e-cigarette use can affect the heart in ways that are relevant to the heart changes involved in heart failure.

Other studies in humans have also shown links between e-cigarette use and some risk factors associated with developing heart failure.

Researchers called for further research of the potential impacts of vaping on heart health, especially considering the prevalence of e-cigarette use among younger people.

In England, e-cigarettes that contain nicotine cannot be legally sold to under 18s.

Despite this, the rate of vaping among young people is increasing. In the UK, twice as many people vape than smoke – 7.6 per cent compared to 3.7 per cent in 2023 – while the proportion of never smokers who have tried vaping is 11.5 per cent.

The Government has introduced measures that will make vaping products less appealing and less accessible to children.

“I think this research is long overdue, especially considering how much e-cigarettes have gained traction,” Bene-Alhasan said.

“We don’t want to wait too long to find out eventually that it might be harmful, and by that time a lot of harm might already have been done. With more research, we will get to uncover a lot more about the potential health consequences and improve the information out to the public.”

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