Male Smokers Risk Stroke
Quit Smoking, You'll Cut Stroke Risk in Half
March 27, 2003 -- Here's more ammunition to quit smoking: Men who smoke increase their risk of stroke -- especially a hemorrhagic stroke, which involves a burst blood vessel in the brain.
The finding appears in the March issue of Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.
The study, which involved more than 22,000 male doctors, tracked the number of strokes for nearly 18 years. The doctors participating in the study also provided information on their smoking habits -- whether they never smoked, had quit smoking, or if they currently smoked -- and how many cigarettes they smoked daily.
About 12% of all strokes are hemorrhagic strokes, and 38% are fatal within 30 days, according to the AHA.
Smoking has already been identified as a risk factor for ischemic stroke -- which occurs when the blood supply to the brain becomes blocked. The researchers wanted to find out if smoking increased the risk of hemorrhagic strokes. Specifically, they look at hemorrhagic strokes that bled inside the brain -- called intracerebral hemorrhage -- instead of between the brain and skull.
Smoking seems to damage artery walls, making arteries more prone to rupture, writes lead researcher Tobias Kurth, MD, a Harvard researcher at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
In 1982, when the study began, 50% of the study participants said they had never smoked and 39% said they had quit smoking. Almost 4% said they smoked less than a pack a day and 7% said they smoked at least a pack a day.
During the next 18 years, 1,069 strokes were reported -- including 139 hemorrhagic strokes.
Those who quit smoking had about the same risk as men who had never smoked. But current smokers had an increased risk of all types of strokes.
"Moreover, the more one smokes, the worse it gets," says Kurth, in a news release.
For men who smoked less than a pack a day, there was a 60%-65% increase in the risk of intracerebral hemorrhage. But those who smoked more than a pack daily had more than twice the risk of intracerebral hemorrhage compared with men who never smoked.
Men who quit smoking seemed to decrease risk of these strokes, Kurth says.
Despite the numerous attempts at improving the prognosis of stroke patients, hemorrhagic stroke still has high long-term disability and death rates. These results add to the multiple health benefits that can accrue by efforts to quit smoking, write the authors.