Toronto: 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)
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.