Context: Previous studies have examined the associations of individual clinical risk factors with risk of peripheral artery disease (PAD), but the combined effects of these risk factors are largely unknown.
Objective: To estimate the degree to which the 4 conventional cardiovascular risk factors of smoking, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, and type 2 diabetes are associated with the risk of PAD among men.
Design, setting, and participants: Prospective study of 44,985 men in the United States without a history of cardiovascular disease at baseline in 1986; participants in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study were followed up for 25 years until January 2011. The presence of risk factors was updated biennially during follow-up.
Main outcome measure: Clinically significant PAD defined as limb amputation or revascularization, angiogram reporting vascular obstruction of 50% or greater, ankle-brachial index of less than 0.90, or physician-diagnosed PAD.
Results: During a median follow-up of 24.2 years (interquartile range, 20.8-24.7 years), there were 537 cases of incident PAD. Each risk factor was significantly and independently associated with a higher risk of PAD after adjustment for the other 3 risk factors and confounders. The age-adjusted incidence rates were 9 (95% CI, 6-14) cases/100,000 person-years (n = 19 incident cases) for 0 risk factors, 23 (95% CI, 18-28) cases/100,000 person-years (n = 99 incident cases) for 1 risk factor, 47 (95% CI, 39-56) cases/100,000 person-years (n = 176 incident cases) for 2 risk factors, 92 (95% CI, 76-111) cases/100,000 person-years (n = 180 incident cases) for 3 risk factors, and 186 (95% CI, 141-246) cases/100,000 person-years (n = 63 incident cases) for 4 risk factors. The multivariable-adjusted hazard ratio for each additional risk factor was 2.06 (95% CI, 1.88-2.26). Men without any of the 4 risk factors had a hazard ratio of PAD of 0.23 (95% CI, 0.14-0.36) compared with all other men in the cohort. In 96% of PAD cases (95% CI, 94%-98%), at least 1 of the 4 risk factors was present at the time of PAD diagnosis. The population-attributable risk associated with these 4 risk factors was 75% (95% CI, 64%-87%). The absolute incidence of PAD among men with all 4 risk factors was 3.5/1000 person-years.
Conclusion: Among men in this cohort, smoking, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, and type 2 diabetes account for the majority of risk associated with development of clinically significant PAD.