Secondhand smoke can harm children's arteries, a new study warns.
Researchers used ultrasound to examine the carotid artery in the neck, brachial artery in the upper arm, and abdominal aorta right above the belly button in 298 kids, aged 8 to 18, who were not smokers.
Stiffness in abdominal aortas
Some had been exposed to secondhand smoke and others had not, the study authors said.
The investigators found that participants' carotid and brachial arteries were unaffected by smoke exposure. But there was increased stiffness in the abdominal aortas of kids exposed to secondhand smoke.
The University of Minnesota study was recently published in the journal Pediatric Research.
The findings suggest that the harmful effects of secondhand smoke can be seen in early damage to arteries, but avoiding further exposure can prevent more harm, the researchers said.
"Our study also suggests children are – at least early in life – protected from smoke exposure because we know, from previous research, that secondhand smoke exposure in young adulthood is a significant cardiovascular risk factor," study senior author Justin Ryder said in a university news release. He's an assistant professor of paediatrics at the University of Minnesota Medical Center in Minneapolis.
More research needed
Michelle Harbin is a doctoral student in exercise physiology and the study's first author.
"This paper provides insight that secondhand smoking may predispose young children and adolescents to increased abdominal aorta stiffness," she said in the news release. "Stiffness in this particular artery has been previously reported to exhibit increased susceptibility to atherosclerosis, which is a buildup of plaques that can restrict blood flow."
More research is needed to determine how vaping and e-cigarettes affect heart disease risks in children and teens, the study authors said.
One in 10 middle school students and one in four high school students reported using e-cigarettes in the past 30 days, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Image credit: iStock