Smokers are more likely to have a stroke ten years earlier than non-smokers, finds a new study. Smoking is a known risk factor for stroke because it contributes to plaque buildup in the arteries that can restrict blood flow to the brain.
Smoking also constricts the blood vessels and increases blood pressure.
Researchers from the Ottawa Hospital found people who smoked had a stroke at age 58, compared to age 67 for non-smokers.
Dr. Mike Sharma and Dr. Robert Reid, who led the study found smokers have twice the risk of ischemic stroke that happens when a blood clot dislodges and blocks blood flow to the brain, and four times the risk of hemorrhage of the blood vessels in the brain (hemorrhagic stroke), compared to people who don’t smoke.
For their study, the scientists studied 264 smokers and 718 non-smokers at an Ottawa prevention clinic, between January 2009 and March 2011.
Study author Dr. Andrew Pipe of the University of Ottawa Heart Institute said, "The information from this study provides yet another important piece of evidence about the significance of helping people stop smoking."
Dr. Pipe offers suggestions that can help people stop smoking, which would also reduce stoke risk to the same levels as non-smokers within 18 months.
Pipe says public health initiatives are needed that include integrated community smoking cessation programs and more support from the health system to help smokers quit.
Other initiatives that Pipe would like to see enforced are aggressive control of contraband tobacco, reducing access of tobacco to minors and appropriate tobacco pricing.
"It's scandalous that Canadians continue to die in large numbers from stroke, heart disease, cancers and a host of other diseases for which the tobacco industry is responsible, Pipe said.
More than 37,000 Canadians will die prematurely each year due to tobacco use, according to estimates from the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.
Pipe says the chances of having a major stroke after suffering a ‘mini-stroke’ or TIA (transient ischemic attack) is ten-fold for people who continue to smoke.
"It is critical for governments to continue to wage the battle against tobacco industry products," says Dr. Hill.
Other known risk factors for stroke include high blood pressure, lack of exercise and poor dietary habits.
The Canadian study shows how important smoking cessation is for lowering the chances of ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke.
The authors say the finding is also an alert for the neurology community to counsel patients about the importance of smoking cessation. The study, presented October 3, 2001 at the Canadian Stroke Congress, reveals people who smoke are likely to have a stroke ten years earlier than non-smokers.