E-cigarettes linked to AFib, other heart rhythm issues in ‘highly concerning’ new study

Using e-cigarettes may be associated with a heightened risk of atrial fibrillation (AFib) or other heart rhythm issues, according to new research published in Nature Communications.[1]

While the study was focused on animal models, its authors emphasized that these findings could represent a legitimate warning for people who use e-cigarettes.

“Our findings demonstrate that short-term exposure to e-cigarettes can destabilize heart rhythm through specific chemicals within e-liquids,” lead author Alex P. Carll, PhD, MSPH, an assistant professor from the department of physiology at the University of Louisville, said in a prepared statement. “These findings suggest that e-cigarette use involving certain flavors or solvent vehicles may disrupt the heart’s electrical conduction and provoke arrhythmias. These effects could increase the risk for atrial or ventricular fibrillation and sudden cardiac arrest.”

Carll et al. used electrocardiograms to track how e-cigarette aerosols such as nicotine-free propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin impacted the cardiac health of mice. The team noted that the various chemicals associated with e-cigarettes can lead to faster heart rates and increased heart rate variability, especially among male mice. QT prolongation, which is associated with an increased risk of cardiac death and cardiac arrest, was also seen in the mice exposed to these chemicals.

Researchers with the University of Louisville have made it a priority to study the potential harms of e-cigarettes. Image courtesy of the University of Louisville.

Overall, the group noted that exposure to e-cigarettes was linked to a greater risk of AFib, other arrhythmias and even cardiac electrical dysfunction.

“The findings of this study are important because they provide fresh evidence that the use of e-cigarettes could interfere with normal heart rhythms—something we did not know before,” added Aruni Bhatnagar, PhD, a professor in the division of environmental medicine at the University of Louisville. “This is highly concerning given the rapid growth of e-cigarette use, particularly among young people.”

The University of Louisville has been focused on the potential harms of e-cigarettes for quite some time, publishing multiple studies. In addition, Carll and other researchers received a $3.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and U.S. Food and Drug Administratiom (FDA) in June 2022 to examine how flavorings used in vapes and electronic cigarettes may impact a person’s health.

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