American Heart Association

Body and mind influence quitting smoking after stroke

Press Release   •   Nov 04, 2011 05:23 EDT

The region of the brain damaged by stroke and their intention to quit smoking before having their stroke influence patients giving up the habit, based on research reported in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association. “We found that both biological and psychological factors may influence someone’s smoking status after a stroke,” said Rosa Suñer, Ph.D., lead author of the study, researcher at the Josep Trueta Hospital, Neurology Department, IdiBGi, and professor of nursing, Girona University inGirona, Spain. One hundred and ten stroke survivors, who were smokers when they had a stroke, were studied for up to a year after being discharged from the hospital.  For these patients, researchers evaluated smoking history and medical information such as type and location of stroke, functional state of the patient at discharge and their length of hospital stay. They found:

  • At the time of discharge, 76 out of the 110 patients had quit smoking. But after a year, only 44 remained non-smokers.
  • Those who had planned to stop smoking before having a stroke were more than twice as likely to be non-smokers after a year compared to patients who hadn’t considered stopping.
  • Before their strokes, only a third of the people were aware that smoking was a risk factor for stroke; a third weren’t aware it was a risk factor; and a third thought smoking wasn’t a risk factor.
  • Patients who had experienced damage to the brain’s insular cortex were more than twice as likely to be a non-smoker after a year compared to patients whose brain injury was elsewhere. The insular cortex is a part of the brain involved in processing emotions.
  • Prior to their strokes, participants smoked an average 28 cigarettes a day and had started smoking at an average age of 17.

“Many ongoing studies looking at the link between different areas of the brain and addiction are discovering that the insular cortex plays a very important role,” Suñer said. “Public knowledge of the link between smoking and stroke is not as strong as it is with other diseases. The information gained from this study may help tailor individual treatment and education programs for smokers after stroke.”   Smokers are two to three times more likely to suffer a stroke than non-smokers, but if the smoker quits, their risk returns to normal between two and five years later, said researchers.   Co-authors are Armando Grau, M.D., Ph.D.; Maria Eugenia Gras, Ph.D.; Sílvia Font-Mayolas, Ph.D.; Yolanda Silva, M.D., Ph.D.; Antonio Dávalos, M.D., Ph.D.; Verónica Cruz, R.N.; Joana Rodrigo, R.N.; and Joaquín Serena, M.D., Ph.D. Author disclosures are on the manuscript.