Patrick Moody Spokesman for Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital If you think hookah smoking is better for your health than using cigarettes, think again. A new study suggests it takes a big toll on your heart. A hookah—which is a water pipe used to smoke a flavorful form of tobacco—has been touted as a healthier alternative to cigarettes. In California alone, there are more than 2,000 shops and 175 hookah lounges and cafes. Nationally, 18.2 percent of adults ages 18-24 report using a hookah. But a new study from the University of California, Los Angeles explains why that’s a big concern. The study, published in the American Journal of Cardiology, showed that just 30 minutes of hookah smoking can put your heart at risk. The researchers took several measurements from 48 young, healthy hookah smokers before and after 30 minutes of smoking. These included heart rate, blood pressure, artery stiffness, blood nicotine and exhaled carbon monoxide levels. The results? A single session of hookah smoking increased both heart rate and blood pressure. And that’s not all. Hookah smoking also increased artery stiffness. This is a key risk factor for heart attack and stroke. It’s similar to what happens when smoking cigarettes. Fighting a dangerous trend The researchers in the study said these measurements were taken after only a short hookah session. But many people smoke from a hookah for hours at a time. This only increases the amount of nicotine and other toxins the body absorbs. But convincing smokers to avoid the hookah isn’t easy. Although cigarette use continues to decline, studies show hookah use is rising. This is especially true among young people and college students. Hookah smoking is even more appealing to young people because of its fun, flavored tobacco. While this type of flavoring is forbidden in cigarettes, this rule doesn’t apply to hookah products. The important thing to remember is that smoking of any sort can wreak havoc on your health. The culprits include cigarettes, cigars, e-cigarettes and, yep, the hookah. Learn more about the risk factors and how you can quit at cancer.org. And visit henrymayo.com to learn about free health and wellness classes available to the community. Patrick Moody is director of marketing and public relations at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital.