Smoking in women increases the risk of PAD, or peripheral arterial disease, which is a debilitating disorder. Women with peripheral diseases have narrow arteries, mainly in the legs, which can reduce blood flow and cause infections and even amputations. PAD also gives way to other risks, such as heart attacks, coronary heart disease, and strokes.
38,825 women were studied, and among these women, those who smoked were 20 times more likely to develop this condition compared to women who did not smoke over a 13-year period. To reduce the risk of PAD, women had to stop smoking completely. Although those who had quit smoking nearly 20 years ago still had a higher risk of developing peripheral arterial disease than non-smokers, according to the researchers. Harvard Medical School assistant professor Dr. Aruna D. Pradhan said that smoking was known to be the cause of heart attacks and lung disease; however, our study now reveals that smoking is such a strong risk factor in the development of PAD.
Statistics of PAD in women smokers
The study began in 1993 with a group causes of peripheral arterial disease of women older than 45 years and none with cardiovascular disease. Half of the group had never smoked, 36% were ex-smokers, 8% smoked 15 cigarettes a day, while 5% smoked less than 15 cigarettes a day. At the end of the study, PAD was found in 178 women. The American Heart Association has said that peripheral artery disease affects nearly 8 million Americans. The risk of PAD became apparent the more cigarettes were consumed. Women who smoked a pack of cigarettes per day in the last decade had a very high risk of succumbing to PAD. The researchers cautioned, however, that there was no threshold for smokers to stay safe from this disease. These results did not change even after other factors that could affect PAD, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and age, were taken into consideration.
The study went on to show that only 8% of women who never smoked developed the risk of PAD, women who stopped smoking two decades ago had a 15% chance, women who stopped smoking more than 10 years ago had half as likely and women who quit smoking between the ages of 10 and 20 were a quarter as likely to have peripheral arterial disease.
The National Institutes of Health added that the chemicals in cigarettes will damage blood vessels and increase plaque build-up in the arteries. This will greatly increase the risk of developing PAD. Pradhan went on to say that the results were surprising, because the effect of chemicals in cigarettes can be seen in an individual even 20 years later. The study included primarily white women, which means that these findings may not affect the entire population.
Quitting smoking can dramatically reduce your risk of developing peripheral artery disease, but there is no guarantee of it. The risk of getting PAD still remains, even if a smoker quit 20 years ago. These statistics demonstrate the need to introduce smoking prevention and establish efforts to promote long-term quitting.