Study: Women who smoke are at a tenfold risk for PAD
June 6th, 2011
05:29 PM ET

Study: Women who smoke are at a tenfold risk for PAD

Women who currently smoke or have a history of smoking are at a greater risk for developing peripheral artery disease (PAD), and stopping smoking produces a dramatic reduction in PAD risk, but doesn’t completely eliminate it. The findings are published in the Annals of Internal Medicine on Monday, and were presented last year at the European Society of Cardiology meeting.

PAD is caused when fatty deposits build up inside artery walls in the legs and pelvis, blocking normal blood flow. Symptoms include pain, cramping, fatigue or heaviness in the legs and buttocks during activity, as well as sudden or difficult to treat high blood pressure. PAD affects about eight million Americans, according to the American Heart Association, and its more common as people age. Untreated, PAD can block blood flow to other critical organs including the kidneys, heart, and brain. People with PAD are at higher risk for stroke and heart attack.

For women who smoked 15 or more cigarettes per day when the study began, the risk of PAD was ten times higher compared to women who had never smoked. Women who never smoked reported very low incidence of PAD. And while previous smokers showed a reduction in PAD risk, especially over time, the researchers found that those who quit smoking more than 20 years earlier still had a higher risk for PAD compared to women who had never smoked.

While other studies have shown a relationship between smoking and PAD, the authors, which include researchers from University Hospital, Basel Switzerland, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Harvard School of Public Health, and Veterans Affairs Boston Medical Center, say that compared to previous studies, their data “indicate one of the strongest associations for current smoking reported thus far.”

Study participants included nearly 40,000 females enrolled in the Women’s Health Study, which included healthy U.S. health care professionals aged 45 or older.

Women filled out health questionnaires twice during the first year of the study, which began in 1993, and then once a year for an average of almost 13 years, according to the study. They were asked whether they had symptoms of PAD or had experienced a procedure to unblock arteries, which would indicate PAD. Researchers confirmed PAD by interviewing participants and reviewing their medical records.

People diagnosed with PAD can make lifestyle and medication changes to slow and even reverse PAD. Stopping smoking will reduce risk for PAD, stroke and heart attack. Eating a healthy, low cholesterol diet is important, because high cholesterol is common with PAD. Regular exercise is one of the most important activities that can eventually decrease symptoms, according to the American Heart Association. Medications can be prescribed to reduce blood pressure, cholesterol, and to make walking easier.

soundoff (32 Responses)
  1. Liberty Spinner

    My mother is 92 years old. She has smoked since she was 11 years of age. She herself is in excellent health no problems from smoking. She does not drink except a few times a year. We her children have many illnesses due to her smoking. I found a fantastic homeopath who removed asthma from my life after having it for 29 years.
    So now I am totally healthy too. This does not mean you should smoke. My siblings have serious illnesses. Mothers who smoke do endanger their children.

    June 6, 2011 at 21:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. canuckindc

    Absolutely groundbreaking news...smoking bad for arteries!!!! And in other news, it turns out the earth revolves around a large yellow thing called the sun.

    June 7, 2011 at 10:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Devin

      Love it! Well said, you beat me to it

      June 7, 2011 at 14:20 | Report abuse |
    • uhuhreally

      Well let's just file this story under "D" for duh...

      June 7, 2011 at 18:54 | Report abuse |
  3. SAM

    Oh Really ? :
    Could the real curse of the mummy be coronary artery disease? Despite strict adherence to the original Mediterranean diet and a complete lack of tobacco, trans-fats, and refined sugars, an Egyptian princess who died around 1550 BC is the first person in history to receive a diagnosis of coronary artery disease.


    June 7, 2011 at 11:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • mikoid

      ...and you know this Egyptian princess strickly adherred to "the original Mediterranean diet" how? Sounds like you're willing to accept the science behind an "autopsy" on a 3,500+ mummy, but unwilling to believe current medical scientific findings... Sounds like you're a smoker in deNILE to me.

      June 7, 2011 at 11:32 | Report abuse |
    • Flynn

      The science behind the autopsy is correct. It doesn't mean smoking isn't bad for you, but it does add to the growing evidence that genetics play a much bigger part in arterial hardening and heart disease.
      We have current technology which would prevent most heart attacks, blockages etc from ever even happening. It's just it's expensive, so people don't usually get it until after heart attack number 1.

      June 7, 2011 at 13:15 | Report abuse |
  4. SAM

    Wan to Blame SMoking on anything ELSE ?

    June 7, 2011 at 11:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • jbohdrider

      Sure- Lung Cancer, premature aging, heart desease, chronic broncitis, and emphazyma jsut to name a few...need me to continue?

      June 7, 2011 at 18:56 | Report abuse |
    • JAY

      Smoking is the cause of everything. And it gets old hearing that. Oh your hair is grey because you smoke. your tire in your car went flat because you smoke.
      Thought maybe things would change since our lovely president smokes. OH wait maybe thats why our debt is so high, is because he smokes.

      June 8, 2011 at 08:00 | Report abuse |
  5. SAM

    Alcohol causes nearly 4 percent of deaths worldwide, more than AIDS, tuberculosis or violence, the World Health Organization warned on Friday.

    Rising incomes have triggered more drinking in heavily populated countries in Africa and Asia, including India and South Africa, and binge drinking is a problem in many developed countries, the United Nations agency said.

    Yet alcohol control policies are weak and remain a low priority for most governments despite drinking's heavy toll on society from road accidents, violence, disease, child neglect and job absenteeism, it said.

    Approximately 2.5 million people die each year from alcohol related causes, the WHO said in its "Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health."

    June 7, 2011 at 11:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • someoneelse

      Absolutely true. Still, this has no relevance to the fact that smoking is dumb.

      June 7, 2011 at 11:31 | Report abuse |
    • mikoid

      ...and now you're coming off as an ex-drinker (alcoholic) too. Sure drinking too much/too often is bad for you. But some of us can have a drink now and then without issues. In fact (I'm sure you've heard) an occasional drink, especially if it's red wine can benefit the heart and arteries... Take your prosthelytizing elsewhere, please.

      June 7, 2011 at 11:39 | Report abuse |
  6. too smart to smoke

    Women who smoke also are 1000% more likely to smell awful!

    June 7, 2011 at 12:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. too smart to smoke

    And be truely Unappealing.

    June 7, 2011 at 12:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Burbank

    Then why is smoking and drinking legal but you can go to jail for smoking pot? They did a 20 year study on heavy pot smokers and discovered it does not give you cancer. These other 2 drugs will!

    June 7, 2011 at 13:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. NC

    ahhhh, another post about smoking and the warnings. I agree with the lady whose mother has smoked her entire life. My mom too has smoked since she was a teen and is healhier than my mother in law who has never smoked or drank. Odd, yes. But I am 100% sure my mom has lived a way more stress free, care-free life!

    June 7, 2011 at 13:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. proamerica

    My Mother-in-law smoked and died of MELANOMA. So, let's turn off the sun, OK.

    June 7, 2011 at 14:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Dr. B

    My mother smoked for 64 years. ... Her lungs were fine at 87.5. She lost 1 leg to PAD and stated she never wanted to go through another amputation again. Ultimately she developed ulcers in the other leg that were cared for for more than 1.5 years, then they suddenly worsened due to a microvascular event.. A second amputation was recommended, and she refused. She died of gangrene in the second leg, from PAD.
    This was especially cruel, since she was always known for her "nice legs" and loved to dance.

    June 7, 2011 at 19:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Morgan

    Everybody knows SOMEbody who smoked for 60 years with no health problems. Some people have body chemistry that can remove a lot of the tobacco junk, but they are only about 1% of the population. One commenter mentioned her mom smoked for many years never was sick but all her kids have health problems so it isn't even hereditary according to that.

    There is enough scientifically proven evidence that smoking has numerous health risks. Anyone who ignores that is gambling that they might be in the 1% and they are playing Russian roulette.

    Puff away folks, the cemetery isn't even half full. That will reduce the load on social security.

    June 8, 2011 at 00:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Sammy

    @Flynn – I would be very curious to read that 20 year study on the heavy Pot smokers. Where did you find that?

    June 8, 2011 at 06:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Sammy

    Sorry, that should have gone to @Burbank

    June 8, 2011 at 06:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Kotenks

    That's what happens when you put poison in your body. What are these people expecting?

    June 8, 2011 at 07:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. DingleBerry

    The article is pathetic. Everything can and will kill you. Life itself is a terminal illness, nobody so far has managed to survive it.
    I enjoy smoking cigarettes, and will continue to do so for as long as I please, or until/if it kills me.

    June 8, 2011 at 14:33 | Report abuse | Reply
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