Want to lower your risk of stroke? Stop smoking.

A woman breaking a cigarette in half.

If you’re a smoker, you already know there are lots of good reasons to quit.

But here’s one you might not know.

Smoking places you at a significantly higher risk of stroke than non-smokers: If you smoke two packs a day, you are six times more likely to have a stroke than a non-smoker.

And if you do have a stroke, you’re twice as likely to die from it.

One of the ways tobacco smoke affects the body is that it thickens the blood. This raises the risk of blood clots and of narrowing of the arteries. It also cuts down on the amount of oxygen in the blood, so that your heart has to work harder.

Tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 toxic chemicals – 7,000 different poisons – including carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, arsenic and cyanide. When you smoke, these chemicals move from your lungs to your bloodstream, damaging cells throughout your body.

Smoking also affects cholesterol levels, increasing another stroke risk factor.

In turn, nicotine makes your heart beat faster and raises your blood pressure at the same time that carbon monoxide reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood, another recipe for stroke.

But it’s not hopeless. If you quit now, the level of oxygen in your blood returns to normal in just eight hours, and in that same amount of time the carbon monoxide and nicotine levels in your blood fall by half. After just one year, your risk of heart attack and stroke are half that of a smoker.

The longer you stay away from smoking, the better your odds get of not having a stroke, and within 15 years your risk could be the same as any non-smoker.

Isn’t it worth quitting now?

This content was produced by UK HealthCare Brand Strategy.

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