Smokers with this disease need more help to quit smoking

In a recent study, researchers found that while many people with peripheral artery disease (PAD) smoke, few receive proven smoking cessation strategies from their doctor.

Worldwide, 202 million adults are affected by peripheral artery disease which is a narrowing of the arteries serving the legs, stomach, arms and head.

Peripheral artery disease most commonly affects arteries in the legs.

Smoking is the single most important risk factor for development and progression of peripheral artery disease.

More importantly, it is modifiable. Smoking cessation is the cornerstone for managing patients with this disease.

The researchers studied the smoking behaviors of more than 1,200 patients who had gone to specialty vascular clinics to be treated for peripheral artery disease.

Patients were experiencing new or worsening leg pain or cramping when exercising because muscles in the legs or other limbs were not getting enough blood flow (claudication).

Researchers found 37% of peripheral artery disease patients were active smokers.

About 16% received a referral to a smoking cessation counseling program and 11% received drug treatment or nicotine replacement therapy.

In addition, 36% of peripheral artery disease smokers who quit relapsed within a year, and 72% of active peripheral artery disease smokers continued smoking after a year.

Patients’ chances of quitting were highest within the first three months after visiting their specialty providers.

But many patients continue smoking or relapse after they attempt to quit.

The team suggests that doctors taking care of these patients need to be aware of this and provide consistent, ongoing cessation support to their smoking patients at every opportunity they get with them.

Patients should not be afraid to reach out to their doctors, friends and family and other cessation support services if they need additional help to quit or to prevent relapses.

The study excluded patients without symptoms related to peripheral artery disease or those whose disease was not severe enough to require a specialist or who may have received care at their primary care physicians’ offices.

The team’s next step is to identify the barriers in providing adequate smoking cessation support for PAD patients in order to identify what works and what could be improved upon.

One study author is Krishna K. Patel, M.D., M.Sc., a cardiology fellow at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

The study is published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

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Source: Journal of the American Heart Association