Even one cigarette a day can be hazardous

Smoking just one cigarette can be injurious to the health of young adults, a new study suggests.
According to a research presented at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress, smoking even one cigarette daily increases the stiffness of the arteries in young adults aged between 18 and 30 years by around 25 per cent.

Stiff arteries increase resistance in blood vessels, making the heart work harder. This increases the risk of heart diseases, including an attack, said Stella Daskalopoulou, an internal medicine and vascular medicine specialist at McGill University Health Centre, who presented the research.

“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, said Daskalopoulou.

As part of the study, researchers compared arterial stiffness of young smokers, who smoke five to six cigarettes per day, to non-smokers using ‘Applanation tonometry’ method.
In this method, the subjects were introduced to an ‘arterial stress test’ which measures the arteries’ response to the stress of exercise.

The test is comparable to a cardiac stress test, which measures the heart’s response to the stress of exercise.
The stiffness was measured for the arteries in the wrist, the neck and the groin while at rest and after exercise.

“In effect we were measuring the elasticity of arteries under challenge from tobacco,” explains Daskalopoulou.
The team measured the arterial stiffness of both smokers and non-smokers during three phases of the stress test.

They observed a 3.6 per cent drop in the arterial stiffness in the non-smokers but an increase of 2.2 per cent in smokers, who were asked not to smoke for 12 hours prior to the test, after exercise.
The stiffness of smokers was measured two more times, one after each of them had one cigarette and the other after chewing a piece of nicotine gum.

It was observed that stiffness increased by 24.5 per cent after smoking and by 12.6 per cent after having nicotine gum.

“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 Daskalopoulou.
The average age of the subjects in the test was 21 years.

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