Women who smoke are eight times more likely to suffer a potentially fatal rupture of the body’s largest artery, or require surgery to repair the weakening that can cause such a rupture, than non smokers.
That’s the conclusion of the latest data from the Women’s Health Initiative, the landmark trial most noted for the 2002 finding that hormone replacement therapy increases the risk of heart problems.
The new finding on the condition called abdominal aortic aneurysm comes from an analysis led by Dr. Frank Lederle, an internist at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Minneapolis and a professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota.
“My particular interest is abdominal aortic aneurysm,” Lederle said. “Most previous studies of it have been in men, so this is an opportunity to look at a very large study in women.”
The aorta is the main artery carrying blood from the heart. An aneurysm is a weakening or ballooning of the blood vessel, a process that can take years to develop, often without symptoms. Some 15,000 Americans die each year when an abdominal aortic aneurysm ruptures, 40 percent of them women.
The link between smoking and aneurysm was not unexpected, Lederle said. “No one would have expected otherwise,” he said. “There is a very strong association in men as well.”
It is a strong relationship. Even women who gave up smoking had a fourfold higher incidence of rupture than women who never smoked.
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