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May 15, 2018

More Cigarettes Smoked Equals Greater Risk for Stroke

Study highlights the importance of quitting or cutting back on smoking to reduce stroke risk.

Although quitting is best, even cutting back on the number of cigarettes smoked could reduce health risks, based on a recent study that links more frequent smoking to increased stroke risk in young men. Findings were recently published in the Journal of the American Heart Association and should be encouraging for individuals looking to reduce their smoking habits.

The study included more than 1,000 young men participating in the Stroke Prevention in Young Men Study, which explores risk factors associated with stroke. It included 615 men who experienced stroke between 2003 and 2007, as well as 530 men who had no history of stroke.

Participants were between the ages of 15 and 49 and completed detailed interviews about their health and smoking history.

After analysis, researchers found that current smokers were 88% more likely to experience a stroke than never smokers. However, just how high their stroke risk was depended on how many cigarettes they smoked.

Men smoking 10 or fewer cigarettes a day had 46% greater risk for stroke than never smokers, while men smoking at least 40 cigarettes a day had nearly six-fold greater risk for stroke compared to never smokers.

Findings confirm that smoking significantly increases stroke risk in young men. Previous studies have shown the same association in young women, but no studies to date had explored the link in young men.

Authors say that while quitting smoking is always preferred, even cutting back on cigarette smoking could reduce stroke risk.

Stroke is the third leading cause of death and the leading cause of disability in the United States. While there are a number of risk factors for stroke that we can’t control—such as age and family history—there are many that we can, including smoking.

Quitting smoking can significantly reduce risk for stroke and life-threatening heart events. As this study suggests, even cutting back on cigarettes could help reduce cardiovascular risk in young men.

Questions for You to Consider

  • Are the health effects of smoking irreversible?

  • Absolutely not. Smokers experience many benefits by quitting, some of which begin just minutes after stopping smoking. Twenty minutes after quitting, blood pressure and heart rate will drop, and the benefits continue to improve over time. One year after quitting, risk of heart disease will be half that of a smoker; within years, risk for stroke, heart disease and other health conditions can equal that of a non-smoker.

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