Stroke and Smoking


Smoking is one of the most important reversible risk factors for stroke. Multiple clinical studies have revealed a strong dose-dependent relationship between smoking and stroke. Smoking has different effects on the body, as highlighted below:
   •    Thickening of the blood allowing blood clots to form
   •    Increased inflammation involving the blood vessels causing plaque buildup and narrowing of the arteries that damages blood vessel wall and restrict blood flow.  


In addition, stroke may result due to a synergistic effect of smoking with hypertension. Current smokers who had strokes had twice as big a difference between diastolic and systolic blood pressure than non-smokers or former smokers.   Smoking increases stroke risk in both men and women, but women smokers may be somewhat more likely to have strokes than men smokers.  The risk for stroke in current smokers is increased by 12% for each increment of 5 cigarettes per day.  Former smokers don’t seem to have a higher risk of stroke, suggesting that smoking cessation has a positive effect on stroke risk. Passive smoking can also increase the risk of stroke and sudden cardiac death.   


If you are a smoker, the most important thing you can do to reduce your stroke risk is to stop smoking. The benefit is immediate. Within 2-12 weeks your circulation will improve; after one year the risk of heart attack and stroke is half of that of a smoker; and after 10-15 years the risk of having a stroke is around the same as someone who never smoked. 

It is difficult to stop smoking as you may experience withdrawal symptoms such as cravings, restlessness, irritability, difficulty concentrating, sleep disturbance or increased appetite.  These symptoms are temporary and usually disappear a few weeks after smoking cessation. Medication and stop-smoking aids can help ease smoking cessation. Tools include nicotine replacement therapy such as patches, gum, lozenges, microtabs, inhalators, and nasal sprays or medications such as Bupropion, Varenicline; and e-cigarettes. 


You should discuss methods of smoking cessation with your provider for the best result.

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