EDMONTON, Alberta, Oct. 27 (UPI) -- Smoking one cigarette increases the stiffness of the arteries in those ages 18-30 by 25 percent, researchers in Canada say.
Dr. Stella Daskalopoulou of McGill University Health Centre in Montreal told the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress in Edmonton that arteries that are stiff or rigid increase resistance in the blood vessels, making the heart work harder -- the stiffer the artery, the greater the risk for heart disease or stroke.
"Young adults ages 20-24 years have the highest smoking rate of all age groups in Canada," Daskalopoulou said. "Our results are significant because they suggest that smoking just a few cigarettes a day impacts the health of the arteries."
The study compared the arterial stiffness of young smokers -- five to six cigarettes a day -- to non-smokers. Arterial measurements were taken in the radial artery in the wrist, the carotid artery in the neck and in the femoral artery in the groin, at rest and after exercise.
After exercise the arterial stiffness levels in non-smokers dropped by 3.6 percent, but in smokers arterial stiffness increased by 2.2 percent.
"In effect, this means that even light smoking in otherwise young healthy people can damage the arteries, compromising the ability of their bodies to cope with physical stress, such as climbing a set of stairs, or catching a bus," Daskalopoulou said.