Smoking post a stroke erodes the brain’s capacity to solve problems, decision-making and memory, a study says.
The study by Hamilton General Hospital, Canada, tested mental abilities of 76 patients, including 12 smokers, with an average age of 67.5 years, using the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) tool.
The MoCA exam tests patients with memory and problem solving questions and gives them a score out of 30. Smokers had a median MoCA score two points lower than non-smokers — 22 out of 30 compared to 24 out of 30.
Patients who had previously quit smoking achieved the same scores as lifetime non-smokers, said Gail MacKenzie, clinical nurse specialist at Hamilton General Hospital, Canada.
“This research emphasizes the importance of smoking cessation for people with stroke or TIA,” said MacKenzie.
TIA, or transient ischemic attack, is a mini stroke and often serves as a warning sign that a bigger stroke is imminent, according to a Hamilton statement.
“Smoking is a risk factor for cognitive impairment for people who continue to smoke and this ability to problem-solve and make decisions has implications for patients’ health and self-management of care,” added Mackenzie.
Almost 37,000 Canadians and many more worldwide will die prematurely each year due to tobacco use, and almost a third of these deaths will be from cardiovascular disease.
Smoking contributes to the build up of plaque in the arteries, increases the risk of blood clots, reduces the oxygen in the blood, increases blood pressure and makes the heart work harder.
“There needs to be more effort to help people stop smoking to protect their brain
both from stroke and from mental decline after stroke,” said Mark Bayley, co-chairman of the Canadian Stroke Congress, where these findings were presented.