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expert reaction to vascular damage from smoking and alcohol in teenage years

Researchers, publishing in European Heart Journal, reported a correlation between smoking and alcohol in teenage years and vascular damage.


Prof Martin McKee, Prof of European Public Health, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), said:

“This is a well conducted study on an extremely well defined cohort. The measure of arterial stiffness used is highly appropriate and the non-invasive technique used has been shown to correlate closely with invasive measures, seen as the gold standard.  The authors note that exposures were assessed by questionnaires and not biomarkers, which is a limitation, but against that the questionnaires were administered on several separate occasions.  The results show a clear additive effect of the two exposures.

“This paper highlights the importance of examining the combined effects of exposure to agents that act through different mechanisms on the cardiovascular system as the adverse effects are likely to be greater than with either on its own. An obvious recent parallel is with research just published from the USA finding that, while both smoking and e-cigarette use appears to be associated with heart attacks, the risks associated with using them together were greater than either alone. Given that many risk factors cluster in deprived sections of the population, this reinforces the need for societal responses to reduce the likelihood that young people will engage in any form of harmful behaviour.”


Prof Metin Avkiran, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, said:

“It is widely known that smoking cigarettes and excessive drinking damage arteries which could lead to potentially deadly heart attacks or strokes.

“This study suggests that the damage to arteries can occur even in the young, leading to serious trouble later on in life. Quitting smoking is the single best thing you can do to protect your heart. Our advice to everyone, including teenagers, is categorical – don’t smoke and if you do try to give up as soon as possible. If you do drink, try to ensure that it’s not to excess and within the recommended guidelines.

“The encouraging indication from the study is that the damage to arteries seems reversible, so it’s never too late to make changes that may literally end up saving your life.”


* ‘Early vascular damage from smoking and alcohol in teenage years: the ALSPAC study’ by name of Charakida et al. was published in European Heart Journal on Tuesday 28th August. 


Declared interests

Prof Martin McKee: “None”

Prof Metin Avkiran: None received.


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