Research Presented by Oxford University at AHA Annual Meeting Shows Extent of Damage Caused by Smoking

—Life Line Screening’s Data Sheds Light on Risk Caused by Silent Disease—

AHA Scientific Sessions 2014

CHICAGO--()--Oxford University researchers today presented data that reveal the extent to which smoking causes silent but deadly damage to health at the annual scientific meeting of the American Heart Association (AHA).

“The range of assessments undertaken treats cardiovascular disease as a whole body disorder, which is important, rather than focusing just on individual organs, such as the heart”

Working with Life Line Screening’s database of several million US adults, Oxford researchers looked at people without symptoms who attended the company’s screening service. The researchers found that smokers were 12 times more likely than non-smokers to develop an abdominal aortic aneurysm, which can burst leading to sudden death.

They also found that rates of leg circulation problems were seven times higher and carotid artery narrowing five times higher in current smokers compared to those who have never smoked.

“Smokers are much more likely to develop life-threatening vascular problems,” said Dr. Richard Bulbulia, who led the study. “We all know that smoking damages health, but many smokers may be unaware of just how they are putting their lives at risk because of these dangerous conditions that develop silently over time.”

Vascular disease is one of the leading causes of death globally. It is affected by a range of personal factors and lifestyle choices such as smoking, diet, blood pressure and adiposity, which can be modified to reduce risk.

The researchers used screening data from 3.1 million US adults who underwent four non-invasive procedures: ultrasound of the carotid artery that feeds blood to the brain, ultrasound of the aorta (the major artery to the heart), an ECG to help determine stroke risk and blood pressure in the arms and legs to assess circulation. The results are being presented today at the AHA Annual Meeting in Chicago and clearly show the importance of cigarette smoking as a risk factor for these asymptomatic, silent conditions.

“We are very pleased to be collaborating with Oxford University in this important research,” says Dr. Mohsen Chabok, MD, MSc Clinical Director at Life Line Screening UK. “We are committed to contributing to the research base ultimately improving patient lives.”

The work will also help determine the importance of high cholesterol, high blood pressure and obesity for these ‘silent’ vascular conditions, helping to prevent significant disease and premature death from vascular disease.

“The range of assessments undertaken treats cardiovascular disease as a whole body disorder, which is important, rather than focusing just on individual organs, such as the heart,” Dr. Sarah Lewington, a co-author of the study, added. “While conditions like aortic aneurysms and carotid stenosis can be treated with medicines - statins to lower cholesterol, aspirin and blood pressure lowering drugs; sometimes these conditions require surgery or stents. Prevention is surely better than cure. Don’t start smoking, and if you do smoke, stop.”

This work is funded by a Henry Goodger Fellowship, and CTSU receives core funding from the British Heart Foundation, UK Medical Research Council and Cancer Research UK.

About Clinical Trial Service Unit, Oxford University

CTSU is part of the Nuffield Department of Population Health, a major section within the Medical Sciences Division of Oxford University, which conducts internationally renowned research into medical treatments and the factors affecting population health worldwide, with a history of high-impact results. CTSU’s work chiefly involves studies of the causes and treatment of “chronic” diseases such as cancer, heart attack or stroke (which, collectively, account for most adult deaths worldwide), although it does also involve some studies of other major conditions in developed and developing countries.

About Life Line Screening

Life Line Screening is the nation's leading provider of community-based preventive health screenings and has a primary focus the early detection of subclinical atherosclerosis, the underlying cause of stroke and heart attack.

Highly trained ultrasound teams are on staff to bring preventive screenings to convenient locations in local communities. The company has screened more than 8 million people since 1993. For more information visit

1The Association of Smoking With Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms, Peripheral Arterial Disease, Carotid Artery Stenosis and Atrial Fibrillation Amongst 1.3 Million Screened US Adults: Richard Bulbulia, Paul Sherliker, Rachel Clack, Kamran Gaba, Alison Halliday, Richard Peto, Sarah Lewington, CTSU, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom


Andrew Trehearne
CTSU/ University of Oxford
+44 (0)1865 743960
Life Line Screening
Joelle Reizes
Global Communications Director
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