Smoking Thickens Teen Arteries

Cigarette smoking can damage the young and healthy arteries of adolescents

(RxWiki News) Teenagers may think they are invincible to the harms from smoking, but new science shows differently. What can be done to get out the message that any smoking is harmful?

A recent study measured teenage smokers’ artery thickness. Results showed early risk signs for cardiovascular troubles.

"Talk to your kids about not smoking."

Julia Dratva, MD, MPH, research fellow at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute in Basel, Switzerland, led a study into the effects of smoking on adolescent health.

The Swiss Study on Air Pollution And Lung and Heart Disease In Adults (SAPALDIA) was a large multi-city study that included nearly 10,000 adults.

The SAPALDIA Youth Study provided information on 351 children of the participants in the SAPALDIA, aged 8-20.

A total of 283 of the children were given several in-depth tests to evaluate cardiovascular health. Each participant also reported his or her smoking habits, exposure to secondhand smoke and activity levels.

Of the group, 11 percent claimed they smoked daily or weekly, 15 percent smoked monthly. All levels of smokers had been doing so for anywhere between a few months to over four years.

Secondhand smoke exposure before the age of 10 was reported by 31 percent and current exposure from parental smoking was reported by 25 percent.

Weight was factored as well with 3 percent of the kids labeled as obese and 13 percent as overweight.

Physical activity of less than 4 hours per week was reported by 60 percent of the group.

Hereditary risk factors for cardiovascular problems were present in 22 percent of the group.

Researchers were looking for links between smoking and carotid artery intima-media thickness (CIMT). The intima and media are the innermost layers of an artery, and a common location for plaques to form.

CIMT can determine whether or not blood flow is healthy. If the artery wall is too thick—blood flow gets restricted and a person is at risk for heart attack or stroke.

The average width of the CIMT was 0.42-0.58mm. Regular smokers had a 0.043mm greater width of their CIMT.

Dr. Dravta noted that even when they made adjustments for exposure to parental secondhand smoke, the CIMT of adolescents who smoked still had wider CIMT.

Dr. Dravta said, “Smoking duration was positively associated with CIMT, showing that the longer subjects smoked, the greater their carotid artery intima-media thickness.”

“Urgent action is needed to help adolescent smokers kick the habit and stop others from taking up smoking.”

“More research is required to determine whether the damage to the vascular structure of smoking adolescents is reversible if they quit smoking.”

These study results were presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress, August 25-29th, 2012 in Munich, Germany. Funding for this study was provided by the Swiss National Foundation and the Lungs League of Basel and Davos, Switzerland, no conflicts of interest were found.

Review Date: 
September 6, 2012