Smoking carries a host of health risks, and now a new study shows the habit significantly increases black Americans’ risk of stroke.
The research included more than 5,300 participants, aged 21 to 84, from the tri-county area around Jackson, Miss. In the final analysis, 546 were current smokers, 781 were past smokers, and 3,083 never smoked.
The participants were part of the Jackson Heart Study, a large study of heart disease risk factors among black Americans.
They underwent initial assessments between 2000 and 2004 and were followed until 2013. During the follow-up period, 183 participants suffered strokes.
Stroke risk was 2.5 times higher among current smokers than in those who never smoked. There was no significant difference between past and never smokers.
The more that people smoked, the greater their risk of stroke. Those who smoked 1-19 cigarettes a day had a 2.3 times higher risk, while those who smoked more than 20 cigarettes a day had a 2.8 times higher risk, according to the study published June 10 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
The increased risk of stroke among smokers was seen for both ischemic (blocked blood flow in the brain) and bleeding (hemorrhagic) stroke.
“Smoking increases the risk of developing stroke among African Americans, and that risk becomes higher as the number of cigarettes smoked per day increases. The more you smoke, the more you stroke,” said study author Dr. Adebamike Oshunbade, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.
“We also assessed the extent of fatty plaque buildup in the carotid arteries of African American smokers by a noninvasive procedure called carotid intima media thickness,” he said in a journal news release. “We found accelerated buildup of fatty plaques in some of the major blood vessels of the brains of smokers, which could play a role in the development of stroke among African Americans.
“Our findings support public health initiatives directed toward smoking cessation, especially among vulnerable groups like African Americans. This is particularly important because these populations have been targeted by tobacco companies,” Oshunbade said.
The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more on stroke.