Smoking ups aneurysm stroke risk

  • Deborah Condon

Smokers with a family history of brain aneurysms are significantly more likely to suffer a stroke caused by such an aneurysm, the results of a new study indicate.

A brain aneurysm is an abnormal bulging outward of one of the arteries in the brain. They are often discovered when they rupture, causing bleeding into the brain or the space closely surrounding the brain, causing a subarachnoid hemorrhage. Subarachnoid hemorrhage from a ruptured brain aneurysm can lead to stroke, brain damage and death.

This type of stroke is deadly in up to 40% of people affected.

US researchers looked at 339 people who had suffered a stroke from a brain aneurysm and 1,016 people who had not suffered a stroke due to an aneurysm. Of those who had suffered a stroke, half were current smokers and the rest were non-smokers or people who had smoked in the past.

The study found that people who smoked and had a family history of stroke were over six times more likely to suffer a stroke than those who did not smoke and did not have a family history of stroke or brain aneurysms.

It also found that people with a family history of stroke could cut their risk by more than half by quitting smoking. The results were the same regardless of high blood pressure, diabetes, alcohol use, body mass index and education level.

"While all people should be advised to quit smoking, our findings suggest that there is an interaction so that if you smoke and you have a family history of aneurysms, you are at an extremely high risk of suffering a stroke from a ruptured brain aneurysm," said the study’s author, Dr Daniel Woo of the University of Cincinnati in Ohio.

Details of these findings are published in the journal, Neurology.

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