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Entries in Artery Disease (1)

Monday
Jun062011

Women’s Smoking Habits Heighten Risk of PAD, Study Finds

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- Eight million Americans are estimated to have peripheral artery disease, or PAD, which increases their risk of heart attack or stroke by four to five times compared to people without PAD.  PAD is a condition in which plaque builds up in the arteries of the legs, or less commonly the arms.  Some of the risk factors for PAD include diabetes, high cholesterol, as well as smoking, and a new study shows that for women 45 years or older, smoking even for a short period of time permanently increases the risk of PAD.
 
The authors from University Hospital in Basel, Switzerland, and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston followed over 28,000 women during a period of about 13 years.  Their health status, lifestyle and smoking habits were assessed using yearly questionnaires, while their cholesterol levels were assessed through blood tests.  

Not surprisingly, current smokers had the highest risk of peripheral artery disease.  But the authors found that women who reported that they used to smoke, but no longer do, also had a greater risk of PAD than women who had never smoked.  The increased risk of former smokers did reduce with the increased length of time since a woman had quit smoking, but it never disappeared completely.  Still, the major take-home point: quit smoking to reduce risk of PAD.
 
Another key finding is that former smokers were almost at three times greater risk of PAD than women who never smoked.  On the other hand, women smoking less than 15 cigarettes per day had a 5.5 times greater risk while those smoking more than 15 cigarettes per day were at 9.5 times greater risk of PAD than non-smokers.
 
One problem with this study, critics say, is that it only counted women who were treated for PAD or had symptoms of the condition such as pain in their legs, weakness, or fatigue while walking.  So women who had plaque buildup in their peripheral arteries without symptoms would have been missed.

These findings are published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

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