Vaping may increase the risk of heart disease and therefore a heart attack. However, some research suggests the risk of vaping may be lower than the risk of smoking tobacco products.

Vaping is relatively new, so researchers have not thoroughly studied its long-term effects and cannot make conclusive statements about the potential risks. As such, further research is necessary to understand the full risks of vaping.

In a 2020 umbrella review, researchers found a link between vaping and a higher risk of heart attack and other types of heart disease, such as atrial fibrillation. Other studies have arrived at similar conclusions.

However, researchers have not established a causal link between vaping and heart disease or heart attack. The specific link between the two continues to be a subject of debate.

This article will explain whether vaping can cause a heart attack and how it affects the heart.

person vapingShare on Pinterest
Getty Images

Recent research does not suggest that vaping alone can trigger an immediate heart attack in someone without serious underlying heart health risk factors.

That said, research suggests vaping may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, especially in people who do not smoke.

In a 2020 umbrella review, which included 183 prior studies, researchers found that vaping had links to the following heart disease risk factors:

  • damage to the tissues, cells, and organs
  • high heart rate
  • stiffer arteries
  • higher blood pressure

Vapers also had a higher risk of atrial fibrillation and heart attack.

Vaping is still preferable to smoking tobacco, according to most research. For instance, a 2019 study followed 114 people who smoked at least 15 cigarettes per day for at least 2 years. Participants switched to vaping, with some smoking electronic cigarettes that contained nicotine and others vaping without nicotine.

One month after the switch, the participants who switched to electronic cigarettes saw improvements in blood pressure and decreases in the stiffness of their blood vessels. This suggests that e-cigarettes may be a healthier option, at least over the short term, than smoking.

There were no differences between the nicotine and nicotine-free groups in terms of heart health outcomes.

However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) still advise not to vape or use e-cigarettes due to the health risks.

Learn more about vaping.

The symptoms of a heart attack include:

  • chest pain, which usually lasts several minutes or goes away and then comes back
  • chest pressure
  • chest pain that radiates to the shoulder, jaw, or left arm
  • feeling dizzy or faint
  • feeling very weak
  • sudden unexplained fatigue
  • shortness of breath
  • sudden pain in one or both shoulders or arms
  • nausea, especially in females

Learn more about heart attacks.

A heart attack occurs when something, usually a blood clot, disrupts the heart’s blood flow. Blood clots, narrow arteries, and high blood pressure are important risk factors.

Over time, vaping may elevate heart disease risk factors. A 2020 umbrella review found that vaping had links to stiffening arteries and higher blood pressure.

A 2022 study found that even in young people, vaping correlates with an increase in blood pressure and higher heart rates. They also had lower blood vessel tone, which may increase the risk of narrow blood vessels and a heart attack. These changes had real-world effects, including worse performance on an exercise stress test.

However, because vaping may have less harmful effects than smoking, people who smoke and then switch to vaping could see heart health improvements, according to a 2019 study.

Nicotine and the heart

Nicotine is one of many chemicals that may be present in e-cigarettes and vaping tools. The substance may cause a number of heart health side effects, including:

These can increase a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease, especially if they have other risk factors, a recent history of heart attack, or other serious heart health issues.

In the 2019 study that followed former smokers who switched to vaping, some smoked nicotine-based e-cigarettes while others switched to nicotine-free. The study found no significant differences in outcomes between the two groups after a month.

Researchers do not fully understand the long-term effects of vaping. Moreover, whether or not vaping causes heart disease directly is not clear. It could be that people who vape have other cardiovascular disease risk factors.

Studies of vaping have not yet established a causal link between vaping and heart disease. However, the correlation is clear.

Having more heart disease risk factors can increase the risk of a heart attack and other diseases. So vaping may worsen a person’s long-term outlook, especially if they otherwise would not smoke.

Because researchers do not fully understand the risks of e-cigarettes, they have not published safety guidelines. There is no evidence of a “safe” e-cigarette.

However, purchasing from a company that tests its products for safety and provides proof of these tests may improve safety.

Most people who smoke or vape have an addiction to nicotine. Nicotine replacement therapy may help a person quit smoking. Medications to reduce cravings, support groups, and therapy to deal with the stress of quitting can also ease the transition.

People who need help quitting can consult a healthcare professional to review which options might be safest.

E-cigarettes can be quitting tools for some people but are not as safe as quitting entirely.

Learn more about ways to quit smoking.

Vaping may be safer than smoking cigarettes. But there is no evidence that it is safe, especially for people with other heart disease risk factors.

Electronic cigarettes contain a variety of chemicals, including nicotine, that may damage the body, including the heart. People who want to quit smoking may find help from e-cigarettes, but they are a harm reduction tool, not a strategy for eliminating all risks.