MONDAY, Jan. 28, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- Smoking increases black Americans' risk of peripheral artery disease (PAD), a new study warns.
PAD -- a narrowing of arteries that provide blood to the arms, legs, brain and other organs such as the kidneys -- can lead to stroke, kidney failure, erectile dysfunction, pain in the legs when walking and loss of limbs.
Black Americans are twice as likely as whites to have PAD. Smoking is a known risk factor for PAD, but little has been found previously about its specific impact among blacks.
"Peripheral artery disease is a major disease burden in the African-American population," lead author Dr. Donald Clark III said. Clark is an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.
To learn more, Clark and his team analyzed medical records of about 5,300 participants in the Jackson Heart Study, a large-scale investigation of heart disease risk factors in black Americans. Participants were 21 to 84 years of age.
Sixty-eight percent said they never smoked; 19 percent said they were former smokers, and 13 percent were current smokers.
Compared to nonsmokers, current smokers were twice as likely to have early signs of PAD in their lower extremities, and eight times more likely to have high calcium buildup in the aorta, the body's main artery.
Those who smoked 20 or more cigarettes a day had much higher odds for PAD than those who smoked less than 20 cigarettes each day, researchers found.
The study was recently published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
"Establishing a clear association between smoking and peripheral artery disease in this particularly vulnerable population can help guide our efforts to lower their risk and to help them improve their health," Clark said in a journal news release.
Dr. Mariell Jessup is chief science and medical officer of the American Heart Association. She said the findings offer strong evidence of the specific life-threatening risks facing African-Americans who smoke.
"This type of research can be useful in the development of clear messages targeted to our African-American population to underscore the real physical costs of tobacco product use," Jessup added.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more on PAD.