Men and women who smoke face similar stroke risks, but female smokers may be at greater risk for a more deadly and less common type of stroke, according to a new study.
Researchers examined data from more than 80 international studies published between 1966 and 2013 and found that smoking is associated with a more than 50 percent increased risk of ischemic stroke in both men and women.
An ischemic stroke is the most common type of stroke, and occurs when a blood clot blocks blood flow to the brain.
But women who smoked were 17 percent more likely to suffer a bleeding (hemorrhagic) stroke than men who smoked, according to the findings, which were published in the journal Stroke.
The researchers also found evidence that men and women who smoke can significantly reduce their risk of stroke by quitting smoking.
Hormones and the way nicotine affects blood fats may explain the increased risk for bleeding strokes among women who smoke, the study authors said. They noted that women who smoke have greater increases in fats, cholesterol and triglycerides than men who smoke.
“Cigarette smoking is a major risk factor for stroke for both men and women, but fortunately, quitting smoking is a highly effective way to lower your stroke risk,” study lead author Rachel Huxley, a professor in the School of Population Health at the University of Queensland, in Australia, said in a journal news release. “Tobacco-control policies should be a mainstay of primary stroke prevention programs.”
Although the research showed an association between women smoking and an increased risk of hemorrhagic stroke, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.