In looking at this research it is worth covering some basics starting with a question: what is the ascending aorta? It’s important to understand its vital function within the body.
The heart pumps blood to the lungs where the red cells swap carbon dioxide for oxygen. The blood then travels back the short journey to the heart where it gets a massive push so that it can carry the oxygen from the heart to all the cells in the body.
The aorta is the thick, muscular tube exiting the heart leading to the body. As well as the heart squeezing the blood out, the aorta (an artery) also squeezes the blood to move it along. The “ascending aorta” is the part of the artery immediately next to the exit from the heart, as shown in the diagram, the strongest part of the aorta – if this is damaged, as with smoking, it can lead to reduced performance, blood pressure problems and myocardial infarctions (a heart attack).
When Farsalinos et al. refer to the elastic properties think about a new elastic band and how that can be stretched over and over. Now think about how old elastic band feels stiffer and will snap easily when pulled because it has become less elastic, inelastic.
Farsalinos et al. begin with the given that smoking has an effect on the walls of arteries in that it stiffens them and reduces the amount of stretch they can achieve. This is important because less elasticity in the walls means it is harder for oxygen-rich blood to get around the body.
Blood pressure readings consist of two numbers; the systolic reading (the higher number) is the pressure during a heartbeat and the diastolic reading (the lower figure) is the blood pressure when the heart rests between beats.
For this investigation, because it is looking at the effect of vapour and smoke on the ascending aorta, it is not possible to take direct readings. Measurements were taken using echo-scanning equipment similar to ultrasound used during a pregnancy – signals are sent very quickly (1,800 times a second) and the echoes form an image and create data for analysis. The data was used to obtain three pieces of information: the strain placed on, the stretchiness (distensibility) of and how stiff the ascending aorta is.
The sample surveyed all had similar resting blood pressures, pulse rates and measured elasticity of the Aorta. The results demonstrated that just two cigarettes had an instant negative effect on the function of the Aorta – it became stiffer, was unable to take as much stress and did not stretch as much as it did prior to smoking. The results for electronic cigarettes demonstrated that there were no noticeable effects on the Aorta from vaping.
Farsalinos et al. concluded that their results confirmed that smoking “significantly decreased elasticity and elevated stiffness” of the aorta. The secondary conclusion was that e-cigarette use has no adverse effect on the walls of the aorta or its function although they recommend further investigation.