Smoking as a Crucial Independent Determinant of Stroke
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National Stroke Research Institute, Austin Health, Victoria, Australia
Geoffrey A. Donnan   

National Stroke Research Institute, Neurosciences Building, Austin Health – Repatriation Campus, 300 Waterdale Road, West Heidelberg, Victoria 3081, Australia
Publication date: 2004-06-15
Tobacco Induced Diseases 2004;2(June):67
Background: Although smoking is known to be powerful risk factor for other vascular diseases, such as cardiac and peripheral vascular disease, only relatively recently has evidence for the role of smoking in the development of stroke been established. The reasons for this advance lie in the acknowledgement that stroke is a heterogeneous disease, in which its subtypes are associated with different risk factors. Furthermore, improvements in the stringency of epidemiological studies and the greater use of CT scanning have enabled the role of smoking in the development of stroke to be elucidated.

Summary of review: This is a qualitative examination of high quality epidemiological studies in which the role of smoking and passive smoking, as a risk factor for cerebral infarction, intracerebral haemorrhage and subarachnoid haemorrhage, is examined. In addition, the pathological mechanisms by which smoking or passive smoking may contribute to the development of stroke are reviewed.

Conclusion: Smoking is a crucial independent determinant of cerebral infarction and subarachnoid haemorrhage, however its role in intracerebral haemorrhage is unclear. Although studies are limited, there is evidence that exposure to passive smoking may also increase the risk of stroke. Smoking appears to be involved in the pathogenesis of stroke via direct injury to the vasculature and also by altering haemodynamic factors within the circulation. Importantly, smoking is modifiable risk factor for stroke. Therefore, the encouragement of smoking cessation may result in a substantial reduction in the incidence of this devastating disease.
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