Q&A: I have smoked for many years.  Is there a relationship between smoking and vascular disease?

Yes, very much so! Not only does smoking increase your risk of lung cancer (and other cancers), it also may put you at much higher risk for cardiovascular disease.

Though the mechanism is not entirely clear, smokers are more likely to develop plaque in their arteries. When plaque forms in the carotid arteries which lead to the brain, it increases the risk of stroke.  When plaque forms in the heart, it increases the risk of heart attack.

When plaque forms in the arteries of the legs, it may first result in debilitating pain that limits the ability to walk and can ultimately lead to limb loss. The benefits of any intervention performed to treat plaque may be lessened or completely undone if the individual continues to smoke after the procedure. What this all comes down to is you should do whatever it takes to stop smoking. That is obviously easier said that done, but it is imperative for your health. There are numerous pharmacologic and non-pharmacological aids available to assist in smoking cessation. These can be discussed with you at your office visit.

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