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Stroke: Protect yourself and others by not smoking

November 15, 2017


Contact: Jon Ebelt, Public Information Officer, DPHHS, (406) 444-0936
               Chuck Council, Communications Specialist, DPHHS, (406) 444-4391

Stroke: Protect yourself and others by not smoking

One in six people will suffer a stroke in their lifetime. Stroke is a sudden and disabling attack on the brain - and it is not uncommon. Stroke is even more frequent among smokers of commercial tobacco. 

Smoking cigarettes significantly increases the likelihood of stroke - by a factor of two to four times more often than among nonsmokers. Smoking also doubles the risk of dying from a stroke.

The fact that smoking contributes to stroke and at least 20 other causes of death should be reason enough to quit right now.

But it’s even more alarming that nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke are also more likely to have a stroke. Nonsmokers who are living with a person who smokes should consider their risks.

Studies related to secondhand smoke provided the body of evidence leading to stricter smoking regulations. Documentation of the adverse effects of secondhand smoke continues to grow. A 2015 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that secondhand smoke increases the risk of stroke by about 30 percent for nonsmokers. (Link to study is here: https://www.elsevier.com/about/press-releases/research-and-journals/secondhand-smoke-increases-stroke-risk-by-30-percent-for-nonsmokers)

The breathers of clean air have less risk of stroke than nonsmokers exposed to cigarette smoke - and the risk is greatly multiplied for those in an environment where they are both smoking and breathing someone else’s smoke.

“If you have a relative who smokes, help them quit, for the health of everyone in the family,” said Sampson DeCrane, who leads the tobacco use prevention effort for the Crow Tribe. “If you and your spouse both smoke - this should be a wake-up call to quit together.”

The more a person smokes, the greater their risk of stroke.  Importantly, exposure to cigarette smoke multiplies the dangers from other risk factors, which include family history, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Women who smoke and use oral contraceptives greatly increase their risk of stroke.

More than 7,000 chemicals are present in secondhand smoke. These chemicals have many harmful effects on blood and blood vessels. Cigarette smoke contributes to build-up of fatty substances in the carotid artery, the main artery in the neck that delivers blood to the brain.

Even brief exposures to tobacco smoke harm blood vessel linings and increase the chance of blood clots. In addition, exposure to cigarette smoke can make the blood stickier and more likely to clot, which is a common cause of stroke.

“The sooner you quit smoking, the faster you lower your stroke risk. Within five years, your risk will be the same as a nonsmoker,” DeCrane advised.

The health benefits of quitting smoking begin immediately—for the smoker and those who are no longer exposed to secondhand smoke.

For help quitting commercial tobacco, American Indians in Montana can call 1-855-372-0037, or go to the American Indian Commercial Tobacco Quit Line at https://americanindian.quitlogix.org/

They can also sign up online with the American Indian Commercial Tobacco Quit Line. The service connects callers with Native coaches, offers 10 weeks free counseling, free Nicotine Replacement Therapy, and cessation medications at reduced cost. The call line is staffed seven days a week from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

For more information and support to quit commercial tobacco, contact the Crow Tribal Health Tobacco Use Prevention Program or Messengers for Health. Helpful tips and tools can be found at smokefree.gov.