Smoking: The primary risk factor for developing PAD
Smoking’s detrimental impact on health is a well-known fact, highlighted by the pervasive warnings concerning lung damage and cancer. However, the extent of smoking’s dark secrets extends beyond common knowledge, particularly regarding its effect on blood vessels. In this article, we delve into the fascinating world of how smoking influences blood vessels and the shocking link it shares with Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD).
The Impact of Smoking on Blood Vessels:
When one takes a drag on a cigarette, the chemicals in tobacco begin to wreak havoc on the heart and blood vessels. Beyond the known effects on blood flow, the nicotine in tobacco induces constriction of blood vessels, resembling the discomfort of a tight corset. This initial effect escalates over time, leading to a condition known as atherosclerosis, characterized by plaque buildup within the arteries. This hardening of the arteries narrows them, obstructing the smooth flow of blood and impeding oxygen delivery to the legs, which ultimately triggers the onset of Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD).
Smoking and Atherosclerosis:
Studies by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute have confirmed that smokers are more susceptible to atherosclerosis, making them particularly prone to PAD. When smoking is combined with the process of plaque accumulation, the risk of developing PAD dramatically increases.
The Alarming Statistics:
The Cleveland Clinic reveals a jaw-dropping revelation: a staggering 80 percent of PAD patients have a history of smoking. Furthermore, tobacco use has been found to elevate the risk of PAD by an astonishing 400 percent. For smokers, these numbers serve as a wakeup call, emphasizing the urgency to address the issue promptly.
Exacerbation of PAD:
For individuals already diagnosed with PAD, continuing to smoke is a dangerous decision. Smoking worsens the symptoms and hastens the progression of the disease. Moreover, smokers place themselves at a significantly higher risk of severe complications, including lower limb amputation, strokes, heart attacks, and even death.
A Glimmer of Hope:
Amidst the grim outlook, a study from the U.S. National Library of Medicine offers a glimmer of hope for PAD patients. Ceasing smoking after receiving a diagnosis might prevent the emergence of new signs of claudication (leg pain or weakness) within seven years. Although it cannot reverse a PAD diagnosis, quitting smoking significantly enhances the long-term survival rate.
Taking Control of Your Health:
If you are over the age of 50 and have a history of smoking (casual smoking or heavy smoking), it is vitally important that you get tested for PAD. The American Heart Association recommends screening of PAD with ABI to those 50-64 years of age with a history of smoking. ABI or Ankle Brachial Index, is the ratio of ankle-to-brachial systolic blood pressure. A simple ABI exam can be performed within minutes by a primary or cardiovascular physician. Call your doctor today to inquire about this life-saving exam.