According to the Canadian Society for Vascular Surgery, the connection between smoking and peripheral vascular disease was made decades ago. “The manifestations of arterial damage are many, including occlusion of the carotid arteries (arteries in the neck) leading to stroke, damage to the leg arteries causing difficulties walking, ulcers, gangrene with a risk of amputation and damage to the arteries of the heart causing angina, infarction or sudden death,” says Dr. Don McCarville, MD FRCSC.

Changes in lifestyle habits are crucial in order to successfully quit smoking. First of all, individuals must choose to quit.  Then, they need to understand the benefits of smoking cessation, such as:

  • Very soon after people stop smoking, their heart rate slows to a normal rhythm.
  • The senses of taste and smell improve in the short term.
  • Arterial circulation improves in a few months.
  • And the risk of myocardial infarction (heart attack) are reduced by half after 6 months.

Dr. McCarville reminds us that many strategies can be developed to avoid environments or situations which trigger a desire to smoke.  Support from family and friends is important.  Establishing a system of “rewards” provides positive reinforcement.  Managing cravings and stress and environmental control are very important.

Tobacco dependence is considered to be the most important factor in peripheral vascular disease (including coronary heart disease and lung disease) and many healthcare professionals are involved in the fight against smoking.  There are multidisciplinary teams and a multitude of resources for establishing a strategy for quitting smoking. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist.