Change Text Size
Email Columns Print page
Columns: The Online newspaper for the University of Georgia community
Show Index
October 20, 2008   Columns Articles | Inside UGA | Study: Even occasional smoking can impair arteries

Study: Even occasional smoking can impair arteries

October 20, 2008
Share    

Even occasional cigarette smoking can impair the functioning of your arteries, according to a new UGA study that used ultrasound to measure how the arteries of young, healthy adults respond to changes in blood flow.

"Most people know that if they have a cigarette or two over the weekend that it's not good for their arteries," said study co-author Kevin McCully, a professor of kinesiology in the College of Education, "but what they may not be aware of-and what our study shows-is that the decrease in function persists into the next week, if not longer."

Previous studies have shown reductions in the arterial health of people who smoke regularly, according to McCully, but what's surprising about his finding is that the study subjects were occasional smokers (less than a pack a week) who had not smoked for at least two days before their ultrasound. The study, which appears in the early online edition of the journal Ultrasound in Medicine and Biology, found that the arteries of occasional smokers were 36 percent less responsive to changes in blood flow than non-smokers.

McCully explained that the healthier an artery is, the more responsive it is to changes in blood flow. A reduction in responsiveness is an early sign of arterial damage that often foreshadows cardiovascular disease. The researchers recruited 18 college students for their study, half of whom were non-smokers. The other half smoked less than a pack a week and had not smoked for at least two days before undergoing testing. The researchers measured the responsiveness of the participants' arteries by inflating a blood pressure cuff around their non-dominant arm to reduce blood flow to the forearm for various durations up to 10 minutes.

The researchers then rapidly deflated the cuff and measured how well the main artery in the forearm responded to the sudden increase in blood flow.

After the occasional smokers underwent their initial test, they smoked two cigarettes and had their arteries re-examined. The researchers found that smoking dropped their arterial responsiveness by another 24 percent compared to before they smoked.

"We saw a definite effect of cigarettes on the arteries, " McCully said.

Columns is produced by the University of Georgia | Division of Marketing & Communications | Feedback