Heavy smokers are at risk of a fatal brain bleed

Medical Specialists Pharmacy has been the bearer of bad news for smokers numerous times this year already; with more and more compelling scientific evidence and studies to emerge that prove just how dangerous tobacco smoke is for your health. It is probably for these reasons that we are experiencing a massive demand for the smoking cessation medication Champix, and this shows no signs of slowing down in the future.

To add to the misery for smokers around the world, we must now report on more risks that come from lighting up a cigarette. In fact, smoking more than 20 of them each day may almost triple your chance of suffering a potentially deadly brain haemorrhage, research suggests.

Korean researchers led by Dr Chi Kyung Kim, from Seoul National University Hospital, studied 426 episodes of subarachnoid haemorrhage (brain bleeds)  from 33 different hospitals across Korea in a two year period, between 2002 and 2004.

A subarachnoid haemorrhage (SAH) is usually a very sudden and painful headache caused by a burst in a weakened artery inside the brain. It is typically described as like ‘being hit on the head with a shovel’ by those unfortunate to experience one. They account for roughly one in 20 strokes in England and the main causes for them are thought to include smoking, long-term excessive alcohol intake and a family history of brain aneurysms. Chances of survival are limited at about 50%, but many patients are left with a varying degree of disability.

For the study at the Seoul National University Hospital, Dr Kim and his colleagues contrasted the 426 patients against the same number of people who had not suffered a brain bleed in those two years, with age and sex identical for each person. The average age for the subjects was 50 and the researchers analysed medical history, lifestyle and smoking habits for everybody.

Results of the study will no doubt raise many eyebrows and paint a further damning portrait into the damage that cigarettes do to the human body. In the group who had suffered from a brain bleed, the number of smokers was determined to be much greater, together with the proportions of those with a family history of stroke and blood pressure problems.

Nearly 38% of those in the brain bleed group were current smokers, compared with 25% in the other group. The researchers study suggests that by not smoking for at least five years results in a massive reduction in overall risk, dropping to 59%. However, those with a history of smoking over 20 cigarettes each day were still approximately 2.3 times more likely to suffer an SAH compared to people who have never smoked.

Dr Kim and his team presented their findings in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, and said, “We have demonstrated that cigarette smoking increases the risk of SAH, but smoking cessation decreases the risk in a time dependent manner, although this beneficial effect may be diminished in heavy smokers. To forestall tragic SAH events, our results call for more global and vigorous efforts for people to stop smoking.”

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