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Science

Roundup: Vaping Linked to Risk of Heart Damage in Young Adults; U.S. Deaths from Excessive Alcohol Rising; and Weight Gain’s Impact on Knees

American Heart Association: Vaping Linked to Heart, Vascular Damage in Young Adults

Adults who regularly used e-cigarettes, or vaping devices, showed “worrisome changes in heart and blood vessel function” and performed “significantly worse” on exercise stress testing, compared to those who don’t use any tobacco or vaping products, according to two separate analyses of preliminary research presented by the American Heart Association.

Researchers found that vaping among young adults who have been using e-cigarettes for an average of four years caused detrimental changes in cardiovascular function that were similar to the impact of smoking tobacco products for nearly 20 years.

The first study was conducted by researchers at the University of Wisconsin between March 2019 and March 2022. The goal was to determine the short-term effects of vaping and cigarette smoking in regular nicotine users, compared with similar peers who didn’t use any nicotine product. Of the participants, 164 people reported exclusively using e-cigarettes for an average of 4.1 years, with the average age of 27.4 years.

“Immediately after vaping or smoking, there were worrisome changes in blood pressure, heart rate, heart rate variability and blood vessel tone (constriction),” said lead study author Matthew C. Tattersall, D.O., M.S., an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and the associate director of preventive cardiology at UW Health in Madison, Wisconsin, in a statement.  “These findings suggest worse cardiovascular disease risk factors right after vaping or smoking, and activation of the sympathetic nervous system may play a role in the adverse responses seen immediately after using e-cigarettes and after exercise testing 90 minutes later.”

In the second study, the same participants — those who vaped and those who smoked — were compared with the group of participants who did not smoke or use e-cigarettes. The goal was to assess how they performed on exercise stress testing, which is known to predict cardiovascular disease outcomes. Treadmill stress tests were performed about 90 minutes after participants had either vaped or smoked, and 90 minutes after those who reported no nicotine use had rested.

“People who vaped clearly performed worse on all four exercise parameters compared to their peers who did not use nicotine, even after adjusting for age, sex and race/ethnicity,” said lead author of the study, Christina M. Hughey, M.D., a fellow in cardiovascular medicine at UW Health, the integrated health systems of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “The exercise performance of those who vaped was not significantly different than people who used combustible cigarettes, even though they had vaped for fewer years than the people who smoked and were much younger.”

The preliminary research from the two studies were presented this week at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2022 in Chicago.

U.S. Deaths From Excessive Alcohol Use Surged 2019-2020, Says New CDC Report

The rate of alcohol-induced deaths had been steadily increasing from 2000 through 2018 at no higher than 7 percent. But a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds that deaths caused by alcohol use surged 26 percent between 2019 and 2020.

The increase was even sharper among women ages 35 to 44, jumping by 42 percent from 2019 to 2020. In 2020, alcohol use caused 13 deaths for every 100,000 people, up from 10.4 deaths for every 100,000 people in 2019.

An estimated one in eight deaths of U.S. adults, ages 20 to 64 , in the years 2015 to 2019 was the result of injuries or illness caused by excessive alcohol use, according to the CDC study published in the journal JAMA Network Open. Among adults aged 20 to 49 years, the rate was even higher at 1 in 5 deaths.

Alcoholic liver disease was the underlying cause for more than half of the alcohol-induced deaths in 2020, followed by mental and behavioral disorders stemming from alcohol use. The CDC’s report does not include deaths where alcohol use may have directly contributed — but was not the only factor in a death.

The CDC states that excessive alcohol use contributed — but did not directly cause — deaths primarily attributed to cancer, heart disease and unintentional injuries like car accidents.  If these deaths counted, the total number of alcohol-related deaths would nearly triple.

Many clinical studies have found that even moderate drinking — one or two beverages a day containing alcohol — can be detrimental to general health.

Gaining Just 11 Pounds Could Raise Risk of Needing Total Knee Replacement

New research focusing on the link between weight gain and knee osteoarthritis has found that just gaining an extra 11 pounds raised the risk of needing total knee replacement — 34 percent higher for r women and 25 percent higher for men.

The finding follows a review by researchers of 23 studies involving some 264,000 people. The more weight participants gained, the higher the likelihood that scans of their knees indicated worsening osteoarthritis. The research was recently presented at the International Congress on Obesity in Australia.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. More than 32 million U.S. adults suffer from the degenerative joint disease that most often affects the joints of the knees, sometimes leading to chronic pain and disability. If nonsurgical treatments like medications and using walking supports are no longer helpful, a patient with severe knee arthritis may consider total knee replacement surgery, which is a safe and effective procedure to relieve pain, correct leg deformity, and help patients resume normal activities.

Knee pain and stiffness can increase with weight gain. But, as the new research indicates, it may not take too much of a weight gain to increase the wear and tear in the cartilage that cushions the knee joints.

Losing 10 percent or more of total body weight has been found to improve knee arthritis. But, if pain and discomfort is not relieved with such a weight loss, a total knee replacement is likely the best option.

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