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Smoking Clouds the Brain in Stroke Patients

Update Date: Oct 02, 2012 08:58 AM EDT

A new study reveals that smokers have more difficulty in problem-solving and decision-making, when compared to non-smokers.

The study, conducted on stroke patients from Southern Ontario was presented at the Canadian Stroke Congress.

For the study, the researchers tested the mental abilities of 76 patients, including 12 smokers, who were of average age 67.5 years, with the help of Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) tool.

The Assessment is designed to test patients' memory and problem-solving skills and give them scores out of 30.

The results of the test revealed a median two point lower score for smokers than non-smokers. However, it was also found that smokers who had quit smoking scored the same as life time non-smokers.

"This research emphasizes the importance of smoking cessation for people with stroke or TIA," says Gail MacKenzie, a clinical nurse specialist at Hamilton General Hospital.

TIA, or transient ischemic attack, is a mini stroke and often serves as a warning sign that a bigger stroke is imminent, Medical Xpress reported.

"Smoking is a risk factor for cognitive impairment for people who continue to smoke and this ability to problem-solve and make decisions has implications for patients' health and self-management of care."

Lower scores in the assessment could mean memory problems, and language, attention, visual-spatial or problem-solving skills related problems.

The report says that at the rate at which the popularity of Tobacco use is rising, predictions reveal that about 37,000 Canadians will die prematurely each year due to tobacco use, and about one-third of these deaths will be from cardiovascular disease.

In just 18 months to two years after quitting smoking, stroke risks come down considerably- almost as low as it is for non-smokers.

"All Canadians should be smoke-free," says Ian Joiner, director of stroke for the Heart and Stroke Foundation. "Not only does it improve the length and quality of your life - but also the lives of those around you."

"There needs to be more effort to help people stop smoking to protect their brain both from stroke and from mental decline after stroke," says Dr. Mark Bayley, Congress Co-Chair.

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