October 8, 2008

Occasional Smoking Can Damage Arteries

Even occasional cigarette smoking can impair the functioning of your arteries, University of Georgia researchers said.

Study co-author Kevin McCully said that researchers used ultrasound to measure how the arteries of young, healthy adults respond to changes in blood flow.

Previous studies have shown reductions in the arterial health of people who smoke regularly, McCully said, but what's surprising about this study 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, published in the 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 said that the healthier an artery is, the more responsive it is to changes in blood flow. A reduction in responsiveness -- known as impaired flow-mediated dilation -- is an early sign of arterial damage that often foreshadows cardiovascular disease.