Together these effects of smoking increase your risk of developing atherosclerosis (also known as hardening of the arteries). People with atherosclerosis have narrower, less flexible arteries which reduce the blood flow, contribute to higher blood pressure, and increase the likelihood of blood clots. Blood clots that travel to the brain stop blood and cause brain cells to die.
Breathing in someone else’s tobacco smoke increases your risk of stroke, non-smokers who live with smokers are almost twice as likely to have a stroke than those whose partners didn’t smoke. Smoke free homes and workplaces reduce the risk of stroke.
Even if you are a long-term smoker, quitting will reduce your risk of stroke almost immediately. Within 8 hours of quitting, your blood oxygen levels will improve and carbon monoxide and nicotine levels in your body will go down by more than half. After 2-12 weeks, your circulatory system will start to improve, after two years your risk will reduce significantly and after five years your risk is the same as non-smokers.
Help to quit?
Nicotine is a highly addictive substance and can be hard to quit.
Smoking also becomes a habit that people can and hard to stop. You might have to try many times to quit before you manage to kick the habit, but getting specialist help to quit makes it four times more likely that you will kick the habit. Because smoking is so harmful to public health, many governments and agencies have put in place programs to support people who want to quit. Some of these provide access to personal support, online tools and nicotine replacement therapy.
If you want to stop, talk to a doctor or pharmacist about local programs or look online for services that might be available to help you quit.
E-cigarettes and 'Vaping'
Devices which provide nicotine without the toxins found in tobacco smoke have increased in popularity in recent years. These are less harmful than smoking tobacco but are not without risk.
If you have tried other ways of quitting without success, e-cigarettes or vaping devices could help you to reduce your risk of stroke. 1 in 4 people are at risk of stroke in their lifetime, but by taking simple steps almost all strokes can be prevented.