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Philadelphia, June 7, 2011 -- A prospective study of initially
healthy women aged 45 and over found that smoking is a potent risk
factor for symptomatic peripheral artery disease, or PAD. PAD is a
serious, often debilitating disorder, caused by narrowing of the
arteries in the lower extremities. Symptoms of PAD include pain in
the legs with normal activity and a feeling of tiredness in the leg
Researchers followed 38,825 women for an average of 12.7 years
to determine if smoking increased a woman's risk for PAD and if
smoking cessation reduced that risk. The women were questioned
about their smoking history and if they currently smoked
cigarettes. If so, they were asked to disclose how many they smoked
per day. During the course of the study, patients periodically
filled out questionnaires about their health and smoking habits.
Surveys were given twice during the first year and then once per
year for the remainder of the study and follow-up period.
Participants were asked to report any symptoms of PAD.
The researchers found that smoking increased a woman's risk for
PAD 10-fold. Smoking cessation reduced the risk, but even after
abstaining from cigarettes for 20 years, the risk did not lower to
that of a woman who had never smoked.
"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," said Eruna Pradhan, Assistant Professor
of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and an author of the study.
"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."
Annals of Internal Medicine is one of the five most
widely cited peer-reviewed medical journals in the world, with a
current impact factor of 16.2. The journal has been published for
82 years. It accepts only 7 percent of the original research
studies submitted for publication. Follow Annals on
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