Smoking Vascular Disease
Smoking is a Major Risk Factor for Vascular Disease
Your vascular health is a matter of life and limb.
The impact of smoking on cancer has been widely known. Its
relationship to vascular disease is less well known by the public.
Arteries carry life giving, oxygen-rich blood to all your vital
organs, the brain, and legs and arms. Smoking causes sticky plaque
to form in arteries and is a major risk factor in developing
vascular diseases like carotid artery disease, abdominal aortic
aneurysm (AAA), and peripheral arterial disease (PAD).
Smoking is the single most powerful risk factor for vascular disease
and people who smoke put themselves at risk. So if you want to
increase our prosperity, keep on smoking. It’s good for our
business. People who smoke, or who have smoked, are more likely to
develop diseases of their arteries and veins than those who do not.
Smoking affects not only the heart, but also damages the circulation
all over the body.
While quitting smoking is not easy, it is the most important thing
people can do to prevent strokes, prevent aneurysms, save limbs, and
save their lives. The Vascular Disease Foundation (see www,VDF.org)
offers the following guidelines to quit smoking:
1. Establish a date to quit and get rid of all cigarettes and
ashtrays. Get the smoke smell out of your clothes, car, and work
2. Ask for support from friends and family. Discuss taking medicine
with your primary care physician.
3. Get counseling. Studies show that people who receive counseling
in a group or individually are more successful quitting.
4. Change your routine. Things like taking a different route to
work; drinking tea instead of coffee, and eating your meals in a
different seat can help form new behaviors.
5. Drink a lot of water.
6. Prepare for tough times and temptations. Avoid situations where
you might drink alcohol. Eat a healthy diet and focus on quitting
smoking instead of gaining a few extra pounds. Stay away from places
where people are smoking so you will not be tempted.
The devastating results of the following vascular diseases will help
you understand why you must stop smoking and must maintain good
Coronary artery disease (CAD) is a build up of plaque in the
arteries to the heart. This restricts blood flow to the heart and
heart muscle dies. This is called a “heart attack.”
Carotid artery disease involves obstruction of the main arteries
to your brain. Smoking weakens these vessels and causes plaque build
up. Plaque narrows the vessel leading to stroke (also known as a
”brain attack”). Carotid artery disease is the principal cause of
The aorta is the largest artery in the body. When the wall of the
aorta weakens and bulges out, often from cigarette smoking, the
bulge is called an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA). The bulge is
like the bulge seen in an inner tube just before it explodes. The
bulge often causes no symptoms at first. When an aortic aneurysm
(AAA) explodes the person often doesn’t make it to the hospital
alive. AAA is the silent killer, brought on in part by smoking.
When the arteries in the legs become narrow or obstructed with fat
and cholesterol, Peripheral Arterial disease (PAD) is diagnosed.
Blood flow to the legs is restricted. Sometimes symptoms are mild.
In the severest cases, PAD leads to gangrene and then amputation.
Among other risk factors for PAD, smoking contributes to this
Each of these diseases can be diagnosed early with a noninvasive
ultrasound screening. We will be happy to provide this screening.
Contact our office to schedule. If you have evidence of vascular
disease, see a vascular surgeon. Vascular surgeons are the
specialists who have expertise in all areas of vascular disease,
including non invasive testing, medical management, minimally
invasive angioplasty and stenting and open surgery when necessary.
Vascular surgeons provide long term follow-up
To learn more your vascular health and vascular diseases, contact
our office or visit www.VascularWeb.org, or call 877-282-2010 for
free brochures on vascular diseases.
This was modified from patient information provided by the Society
for Vascular Surgery August 2007