Smoker or Non-Smoker: That Is the Question!
Welcome to the third lesson of the course.
If you don’t smoke, then consider not breathing secondhand smoke at home or at work and jump to the stroke genetics part of this lesson. Just keep in mind, up to 600,000 deaths are caused by other people’s smoke each year.
If you’re a former smoker, take into account that it may take several years to drop your risk of stroke to that of someone who never smoked.
But if you’re a current smoker, then things get hard.
You may already know that smokers have a higher risk of developing several types of cancer and lung diseases, atherosclerosis, and heart disease, and it’s the most important preventable cause of premature death. In relation to stroke statistics, the number of strokes would be cut by 12.4% if people didn’t smoke.
How does smoking cause stroke?
Smoking can thicken blood vessel walls and lead to the buildup of plaque, which can then break off in blood clots that, after travelling to the brain, can block blood flow to it and cause an ischemic stroke.
Smoking can also weaken blood vessel walls, leading blood vessels to break or burst and bleed into the brain, known as a hemorrhagic stroke.
Change is a process, not an event
I believe you if you’ve really done your best to kick this bad habit. But don’t give up! Stay motivated! Keep informed! The more you know about your addiction, the easier it is to find a better way for you to quit it. There’s a quote by Albert Einstein that says:
“If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.”
Consult your doctor who, considering your individual needs, will help you choose among different ways to quit smoking. Generally, they include:
• Cold turkey or abrupt cessation of smoking, which works better than gradual cessation.
• Behavioral therapy, which helps to develop cognitive and behavioral skills to resist urges to smoke.
• Nicotine replacement therapy, a medically approved way to take a small controlled amount of nicotine by means other than tobacco, for example, in the form of gum, patches, sprays, inhalers, or lozenges that do not contain harmful chemicals in cigarettes.
• Medication: taking smoking cessation drugs that are used to treat or reduce withdrawal symptoms.
• Combo treatments: using a combination of anti-smoking approaches to increase the chances of quitting.
If you tried these and nothing helped, then make sure to surround yourself and talk with people who successfully quit smoking because success is contagious!
Genetic contributions to stroke
While smoking is a bad habit that, even though difficult to break, can be completely managed by ourselves, there are several stroke risk factors that are beyond our control; one of them is stroke genetics. If your grandparent, parent, or sibling suffered a stroke, especially before age 60, then you might be at a greater risk. But the good news is that even having a family history of stroke, stroke genetics have a modifying effect, which means that your genetic predisposition to stroke can be mediated by other risk factors like high blood pressure, which we’ve already learned how to manage in the previous lesson. The point here is to be prudent and aware!
Tomorrow, we’ll talk about how stress and depression and even infections can raise the risk of having a stroke.
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