Stroke is a serious medical condition in which blood flow to one or more portions of the brain is inhibited. Once blood flow is cut off, the brain can’t get the oxygen it needs, and brain cells begin to die rapidly. There are many potential risk factors for stroke, one of which is smoking tobacco products. Smoking significantly raises the risk of blood clots and artery blockages, both of which are linked with stroke and other cardiovascular diseases.
Who Suffers from Strokes?
Strokes are most common in adults over 50 years of age and those with certain medical conditions, although they occur in people of all ages. Those with risk factors for heart disease are often at a higher risk of stroke. This is due, in part, to their common risk factors. These can include high blood pressure, a history of blood clots, obesity, and smoking of tobacco products.
How are Strokes Diagnosed?
Magnetic resonance imagining, or MRI, scanning may be done to diagnose a stroke. This scan will show pictures of the brain and indicate any areas with obstructed blood flow. A CT scan may be used in combination with MRI in some cases. These tests are combined with physical symptoms.
How is a Stroke Treated?
Treatment for a stroke is twofold: doctors must treat the cause of the stroke, and then the patient will need continuing rehabilitative therapy to recover as much brain function as possible. Medication used for strokes include tissue plasminogen activator, or tPA, which works by dissolving the blood clot causing the stroke, and it increases blood flow to the area to restore brain oxygen levels.
Once a patient has survived a stroke, ongoing care is often needed. Some patients are paralyzed in one or more areas. Speech may also be impaired. The severity of disability will depend on the type of stroke, the size of the obstructed area, and how quickly medical intervention was received. Those who receive treatment within an hour of the onset of symptoms have a much better chance of making a recovery with proper rehabilitation.
Lifestyle changes may also be needed if they were contributing factors in the stroke. Changing bad habits may help prevent recurrence.
How Does Tobacco Use Cause Stroke?
The use of cigarettes and other tobacco products can cause strokes in a variety of ways. The compounds in cigarette smoke can cause blood clots, which is a primary cause of stroke. Tobacco products can also damage cell walls in the vessels, lead to arterial thickening and narrowing, and raise triglycerides in the blood. All of these may greatly increase stroke risk, either directly or indirectly.
It is estimated that those who smoke are at double the risk of stroke compared to those who don’t (Centers for Disease Control). This risk increases even more when compounded with other unhealthy lifestyle choices or certain medical conditions.
How Can Stroke be Prevented?
While not all strokes can be prevented, there are some actionable steps one can take to lower risk. A healthy diet and exercise should be maintained. Use of tobacco products should be avoided entirely. Those who smoke should quit to reduce the risk of stroke and other potentially deadly complications related to tobacco use and effects of smoking. Help is available to those who want to quit but aren’t sure where to begin.