Cigar Smoking Found to Impair Artery Function
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Smoking a single cigar immediately impairs the function of blood vessels, study findings show.
Though the study did not evaluate the long-term effects of cigar smoking, the results challenge the idea that cigars are a safe alternative to cigarettes, the study's senior author told Reuters Health.
Many people feel that cigar smoking is safe since they do not inhale the smoke into their lungs as cigarette smokers do, according to Dr. Gervasio A. Lamas of Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, Florida.
But based on the study, Lamas said in an interview, "Cigar smoking is not a healthy alternative."
Disturbed by the increasing popularity of cigars, Lamas and his colleagues set out to determine the effects of cigar smoking on blood vessel function. They measured how cigar smoking affected the endothelium, the thin layer of cells that line arteries.
The endothelium "is essential for the health of the artery," according to Lamas. "Pretty much every cardiovascular risk factor messes up the endothelium."
Lamas and his colleagues recruited 29 volunteers aged 24 to 45. All of the participants were healthy, and none regularly smoked cigars or cigarettes.
At the start of the study, the researchers measured endothelial function by determining how well the brachial artery in the arm widened in response to increased blood flow. If the endothelium is unhealthy, it dilates less, Lamas explained.
Next, 15 participants smoked a single cigar. Endothelial function was then measured again in all participants. Twenty-one of the participants underwent the testing again 5 hours later.
At the start of the study, endothelial function was similar in both groups. But blood vessel function was significantly impaired in cigar smokers immediately after they smoked a cigar, Lamas and his colleagues report in the January issue of the American Heart Journal.
The brachial artery widened less than 3% in cigar smokers compared with an average of more than 9% in people who did not smoke.
"Smoking a single cigar really damaged the normal function of the endothelium," Lamas said.
Five hours later, blood vessels in cigar smokers had returned to normal, with no significant differences between the groups on vessel widening.
But Lamas pointed out that the damage may not reverse itself if people smoke cigars on a regular basis.