Smokers, especially women, are at an increased risk of developing a disease known as ‘subarachnoid haemorrhage’, which essentially means bleeding inside the lining of the brain, a study has warned.
Subarachnoid haemorrhage is a condition of bleeding in the lining between the brain's surface and underlying brain tissues. The findings showed that although cigarette smoking was linked to an increased risk of subarachnoid haemorrhage among both sexes, women faced the highest risk.
"Female sex has been described as an independent risk factor for subarachnoid haemorrhage, but we found strong evidence that the elevated risk in women is explained by vulnerability to smoking," said lead author Joni Valdemar Lindbohm, Physician at the University of Helsinki in Finland. Further, among light smokers (1 to 10 cigarettes per day), women were 2.95 times more likely to have subarachnoid haemorrhage compared to non-smokers, while men who smoked comparable amounts of cigarettes were 1.93 times more likely.
Women who smoked 11 to 20 cigarettes per day were 3.89 times more likely to have subarachnoid haemorrhage compared to non-smokers, while men who smoked comparable amounts of cigarettes were 2.13 times more likely. Women who smoked 21 to 30 cigarettes per day were more than 8.35 times likely to have subarachnoid hemorrhage compared to non-smokers, while men who smoked comparable amounts of cigarettes were 2.76 times more likely.
"Our results suggest that age, sex and lifestyle risk factors play a critical role in predicting which patients are at risk for subarachnoid haemorrhage and emphasise the importance of effective smoking cessation strategies," Lindbohm explained.
However, quitting smoking has been found to significantly decrease the risk among former smokers.
"There is no safe level of smoking," Lindbohm said, adding "naturally the best option is never to start. Quitting smoking, however, can reduce the risk for subarachnoid haemorrhage in both sexes." In addition, subarachnoid haemorrhage also accounts for three per cent of all strokes, according to the American Heart Association.
Smoking is perhaps the most important modifiable risk factor in preventing subarachnoid haemorrhage, with the highest population attributable risk of any subarachnoid haemorrhage risk factor, the researchers noted.
For the study, published in the journal 'Stroke', the team included 65,521 adults from Finish national surveys.
Slightly more than half of participants were women, and their average age was 45 years. The average follow-up was 21 years from study enrolment until first stroke, death or study completion on December 31, 2011.
(With inputs from IANS)