Cigarette smoking is one of the most important changeable risk factors for peripheral arterial disease, a narrowing of the peripheral arteries of the arms, legs, head, and stomach. More than 200 million people around the world are affected by PAD, and many of them smoke. In a study published by the Journal of the American Heart Association more than one-third of PAD patients were active smokers.
Peripheral arterial disease starts when the arteries narrow due to plaque accumulation, which prevents or decreases the amount of oxygen-rich blood reaching your legs. The chemicals in tobacco smoke speed up plaque buildup in the artery wall and increase the formation of leg artery blockages. Smoking also constricts blood vessels and causes blood to clot, ultimately putting PAD patients at a higher risk of further complications such as heart attacks, limb amputations and death.
According to research by scientists at John Hopkins University and published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, people who smoke more than a pack a day had 5.4 times the risk of PAD compared to those who never smoked.
When a block of plaque hardens or becomes brittle, it is in danger of rupturing, which can cause a blood clot to form. This may completely block the artery, which is a serious concern if the blockage occurs in the legs. The total loss of circulation to the legs or feet can cause gangrene which is the death of body tissues due to the lack of blood flow. If not successfully treated, the limb may require amputation.
If you have PAD quitting smoking may be the most important life-saving step you take, lowering your risk of stroke, heart attack or death. You will also enjoy a raft of other health benefits such as lowering your risk of cancer of the mouth, reducing your risk of foot ulcers and improving your breathing and blood flow.
Reducing the number of cigarettes you smoke and ultimately stopping the habit will take time, dedication and patience. But every year, millions of people do just that by making the required changes to their lifestyle and habits.
Here are a few top tips to help you kick the habit for good.
1) Prepare yourself mentally for the task ahead. Start by setting a date for quitting, say in one month. Before then, get rid of all your cigarettes and throw away ashtrays in your home, car and place of work.
2) Enlist support by telling family and friends you're going to quit and ask them not to leave cigarettes and ashtrays lying around. Ask for help and advice from your healthcare provider. Consider joining a local or online support group.
3) Practice new skills and behaviors during the first weeks of giving up. This will be when you miss the habit the most so distract yourself from smoking by going for short walks and taking up hobbies where you're doing things with your hands - for example, working on a puzzle or knitting.
4) Purchase quit smoking products that can lessen the urge to smoke. Some contain tiny amounts of nicotine, such as nicotine patches and nicotine gum.
5) Be aware of putting yourself in situations where you may slip. Stay away from social activities where you know people will be smoking and avoid alcohol if you used to smoke every time you had a drink. You could switch to ice water with lemon or soda.
6) Stay as active if you can. Bursts of physical activity can take your mind off your cravings and help boost your energy and mood. They can also help you achieve other health-related goals, such as lowering blood pressure. It's best if you can find activities you enjoy to make exercise feel like less of a chore.
Many people who are trying to give up smoking relapse within the first three months. If that happens to you, don't beat yourself up about it. Just go back to step one and start again. Quitting smoking is difficult; there are no two ways about it, but you can do it.
If you´re concerned about PAD, whether you're a smoker or non-smoker and would like to speak to a professional, book a consultation with Dr. Goke Akiinwande. Here at the Midwest Institute for Non-Surgical Therapy, we offer state-of-the-art treatments that open arteries and veins to increase blood flow and reduce the risk of amputations. To schedule a FREE vascular consultation, call us on 314-269-0946 or use our online booking service today.