The study in question involved the reports of over 95,000 Korean patients; all of whom had regular check-ups and were diagnosed with atrial fibrillation.
Of the 95,000 patients involved in the study, around 62% were men and their mean average age was 61 years old. They were put in categories related to their smoking habits (or lack thereof): ex-smokers, current smokers, and non-smokers.
Now, much like with previous studies, the researchers found that cigarette smoking is a serious risk factor for all types of stroke: ischemic strokes, hemorrhagic strokes, TIA’s, etc.
They observed that the preliminary cause for this association is related to two other known-factors associated with stroke-risk: blood clots and atherosclerosis. Both of which, when thrown in together with other stroke risk factors, must be managed carefully to prevent immediate medical emergencies.
Smoking Increases Unwanted Blood Clots
One of the biggest concerns brought up by the Korean researchers was that smoking has been proven to raise the risk of blood clots.
According to the American Heart Association, this is because it makes platelets more likely to clump together and because smoking is known to cause damage to the blood vessels. In both cases, blood clots are more likely to form. And, of course, with the increased risk of unwanted blood clots, the risk of incurring a stroke increases as well.
To counter this risk, the researchers recommend that stroke-risk patients (who have atrial fibrillation or vascular diseases) quit smoking immediately.
Smoking cessation, after all, is one of the better-known treatments in this case.
Although depending on the patient’s lifestyle, they may also be required to make lifestyle changes — like in their diet or their level of physical activity. And, in cases where their condition can be managed through other risk factors, they might also be prescribed medications that can help them manage those risk factors.
Smoking Increases Risk for Atherosclerosis
If the patient was already a chronic smoker before they were diagnosed as a stroke-risk patient, it is generally more difficult for them to act preventatively (even if they’ve done their best to manage the risk of blood clots.) Mostly, because there is a chance that they’ve acquired a condition called atherosclerosis.
Atherosclerosis is the build-up of fatty plaque against the interior walls of blood vessels. This build-up can cause narrowed arteries that disrupt the passage of blood — or else, block it entirely — and might result in a stroke or mini-stroke.
In such cases, the only treatment available is, again, smoking cessation; along with medication and certain lifestyle changes that manage the risk factors associated with the condition.
The Bottom Line: Cigarette Smoking Increases the Risk of Stroke
Almost 800,000 people in the United States die of a stroke every year. But there are ways of preventing the fear of experiencing a stroke from taking over your life!
If you know for a fact that you have a history of strokes in your family, or if you, yourself, have some of the risk factors associated with strokes, then the best thing to do is to act proactively.
Above we talked about why smoking cessation is so important, and how it can actively stay the progression of certain conditions that make you more susceptible to strokes, but there are so many other things that you can do to wrest control over your life once more.
For this, we highly recommend that you reach out to a medical professional that is capable of deep-diving into your own personal and medical history — only they will be able to create a treatment or recovery plan that will best suit your unique circumstances.
- Understand Your Risk for Excessive Blood Clotting. (n.d.). Retrieved August 30, 2020, from https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/venous-thromboembolism/understand-your-risk-for-excessive-blood-clotting