The stiffer a person's arteries, the greater their risk for heart disease or stroke, noted researcher Dr. Stella Daskalopoulou, an internal medicine and vascular medicine specialist at McGill University Health Center in Montreal.
She measured arterial stiffness in smokers and non-smokers, ages 18 to 30, at rest and after exercise. To establish a baseline measurement, the smokers, who smoked five to six cigarettes a day, were asked to refrain from having a cigarette for 12 hours before their first exercise test. Before the second exercise test, smokers were allowed to have one cigarette. Before the final test, they were asked to chew a piece of nicotine gum.
After exercise, arterial stiffness in non-smokers decreased 3.6 percent. But the smokers' arterial stiffness increased 2.2 percent after exercise. In smokers, arterial stiffness increased 12.6 percent after they chewed nicotine gum and 24.5 percent after they had one cigarette.
There was no difference in arterial stiffness between smokers and non-smokers at rest.
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