Regular smoking raises a female’s risk of developing PAD (peripheral artery disease) 10-fold, researchers from Harvard Medical School revealed in the medical journal Annals of Internal Medicine. They added that even short-term smoking appears to elevate the risk significantly for women.

Peripheral artery diseases, also known as PAD, is a type of peripheral vascular disease in which an artery is either partially or totally blocked, often one leading to a limb. It is not the same as leg artery disease (usually due to atherosclerosis) or arm artery disease (usually due to repetitive motion, autoimmune disease, radiation therapy, Raynaud’s disease, a blood clot, radiation therapy, and trauma). PAD is a serious and debilitating disease.

PAD signs and symptoms include painful legs with normal activity, as well as tiredness in the leg muscles.

Eruna Pradhan, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and team carried out a study involving 38,825 women aged at least 45 years for an average of 12.7 years. They wanted to see whether smoking raised PAD risk, and also whether giving up smoking might reduce the risk, and by how much.
They questioned the participants regarding their smoking status and history, including how many cigarettes were smoked each day. During the 12.7 years updating questionnaires were filled in every year, which also included details on PAD symptoms.

They found that smoking is definitely a major risk factor for symptomatic peripheral artery disease. Regular smoking appears to raise a woman’s risk of developing PAD tenfold, compared to lifetime non-smoking females.

Although giving up smoking definitely brings down the risk of developing PAD considerably, it was found never to reach the same low level risk of lifetime non-smoking women.

Eruna Pradhan said:

“This study showed that-as has been previously shown for heart attacks and for lung cancer-that smoking is actually very harmful for the development PAD. This is significant because PAD is a disease that not only causes a lot of pain and discomfort with usual, daily activities but it also increases the risk of heart attack.”

Source: Annals of Internal Medicine

Written by Christian Nordqvist