Smoking can cost an arm and a leg as well as raising the risk of dying from a heart attack or stroke.

Wednesday 31 August 2005

ASH news release:  Embargo: 00:01 Wednesday 31 August 2005


Smoking can cost an arm and a leg as well as raising the risk of dying from a heart attack or stroke.


A new report published today by the health campaigning group ASH,  reveals the devastating health consequences of a common but little-understood circulatory disease which can lead to gangrene and amputation, and is primarily caused by smoking.


Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is a circulatory disorder affecting the main arteries. Smoking narrows the arteries making it more difficult for blood to reach the extremities. In some cases this can lead to gangrene and amputation of the affected limb.  But the greatest risk for people with PAD is a heart attack or stroke.  Smokers have a 10-16 times greater risk of developing PAD than non-smokers.


Some of the key facts about PAD include:


·         In the UK, an estimated 2.7 million people aged over 55 have some degree of PAD.

·         About one third of patients with PAD die within five years and about one half die within 10 years of diagnosis.

·         About half of all patients with PAD have no obvious symptoms and the first indication of arterial disease may be a heart attack or stroke.

·         The best treatment for PAD is to stop smoking.  Quitting smoking reduces the risk of the disease progressing and dramatically reduces the need for limb amputation and the risk of premature death.


Deborah Arnott, Director of the health campaigning charity ASH, said:


“Quite literally, smoking can cost an arm and a leg if people with arterial disease don’t  stop smoking.  Despite the fact that thousands of people are diagnosed with this disorder every year, PAD is a little understood consequence of smoking. Doctors and health professionals should warn patients who smoke of the risk of arterial disease and offer them advice on ways to quit.”


Professor Peter Weissberg, Medical Director of the British Heart Foundation, said:


“Smoking is the most potent avoidable risk factor for arterial disease. It affects all arteries in the body, so people who smoke are risking the blood supply to all of their vital organs. Loss of blood supply leads to death of part or all of that organ, so that in the brain it causes strokes and in the heart it causes heart attacks, both of which are sudden and may be fatal. But in the limbs, particularly the lower limbs, it leads to chronic, disabling and often untreatable pain until gangrene finally sets in and amputation is inevitable. If a smoker with arterial disease continues to smoke, it is only a matter of time before all the organs are affected with devastating consequences.”




Professor Sir Peter Bell, Chairman of the British Vascular Foundation said:


 “It is now firmly established that peripheral arterial disease is a marker of increased cardiovascular risk yet, sadly, it does not attract the same interest as heart disease and stroke.  Hopefully, this new report will bring PAD to the forefront and highlight the devastating effects that smoking can have on your circulation.”








Notes and links:

[1]  A pdf of the report is available at:

[2]  For further information regarding case studies or to speak to a vascular surgeon please contact Amanda Sandford at ASH on 020 7739 5902

[2] For more information about the British Heart Foundation, or to arrange an interview with a cardiac nurse or cardiologist, please contact the BHF press office on 020 7487 7172 or email or call 07764 290381 outside normal office hours.


Contact: Deborah Arnott  020 7739 5902 (w) 079 7693 5987 (m)

Or Amanda Sandford 020 7739 5902    ISDN available


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