Picture credit: http://www.northernsydneyvascular.com.au
Smoking, Even for a Short Time, Significantly Increases a Woman's Risk for Peripheral Artery Disease
I am sure you know by now that smoking is a major cause of heart disease, cancer and lung disease.
Smoking is also the number one cause of PAD (Peripheral Artery Disease).
PAD is a serious, often debilitating disorder, caused by narrowing of the arteries in the lower extremities. Symptoms of PAD include pain in the legs with normal activity and a feeling of tiredness in the leg muscles.
A prospective study of initially healthy women aged 45 and over confirmed that smoking is a potent risk factor for symptomatic peripheral artery disease, or PAD.
Researchers followed 38,825 women for an average of 12.7 years to determine if smoking increased a woman's risk for PAD and if smoking cessation reduced that risk.
The researchers found that smoking increased a woman's risk for PAD 10-fold. Smoking cessation reduced the risk, but even after abstaining from cigarettes for 20 years, the risk did not lower to that of a woman who had never smoked.
Smoking harms the blood vessels by speeding up the buildup of plaque in the artery walls and increases the formation of leg artery blockages. Smoking constricts blood vessels and causes the blood to clot. As a result, smoking causes PAD to get worse faster. It increases the chance of having leg pain (or claudication) even while at rest, losing a foot or a leg due to amputation.
PAD also increases the risk of heart attack. As many as one out of two people with PAD who continue to smoke will have a heart attack or stroke or die within 5 years.
David Conen, Brendan M. Everett, Tobias Kurth, Mark A. Creager, Julie E. Buring, Paul M. Ridker, Aruna D. Pradhan. Smoking, Smoking Status, and Risk for Symptomatic Peripheral Artery Disease in Women: A Cohort Study. Annals of Internal Medicine, 2011; 154: 719-726 [link]