A British study found that female smokers have a higher risk of developing a rare type of bleeding in the brain called subarachnoid haemorrhage than men and female non-smokers after moderate to intense physical activity. The condition is potentially fatal and can lead to a coma or paralysis.
- Subarachnoid haemorrhage accounts for just five percent of strokes, but it is often fatal if left untreated.
- The life-threatening stroke can happen shortly after the patient lifted something heavy, went to the bathroom or had a coughing fit.
- The condition has no warning signs.
Doctors explain that the condition can occur in patients with brain aneurysm i.e. a weak area in a brain blood vessel which is more prone to burst under higher blood pressure. The condition is more common in women than in men but the recent study found that it is also more common in female smokers than in non-smokers.
The risk of having the brain bleed was high even in women who weren’t heavy smokers. The analysis revealed that women who smoked up to 10 cigarettes per day were 2.95 times more likely to develop brain hemorrhage than female non-smokers.
Men were just 1.93 times more likely to develop the condition than their non-smoking counterparts.
Women who were heavy smokers, i.e they consumed up to a pack daily, were nearly 4 times more likely to develop the condition than non-smokers. By contrast male heavy smokers had only 2.13 times higher risk.
Women who smoked up to 30 cigarettes per day saw their risk of having subarachnoid haemorrhage jump by 8.35 times, while men int he same category were just 2.76 times more prone to be affected by it.
On the other hand, former smokers saw their risk plunge to normal levels after six months of abstinence. Regardless of their sex, smokers who had quit smoking at least six months prior had a risk of brain bleed comparable to that of non-smokers.
Researchers cannot yet tell for sure why women are at higher risk but they believe that it my have something to do with women being more vulnerable to the negative effects of smoking. Age and unhealthy lifestyle choices also boost the risk of brain hemorrhage and fatal stroke. One researcher noted that “there is no safe level of smoking.”
The study was published this week in the journal Stroke.
Image Source: Flickr