How Does Smoking Cause a Stroke?

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Smoking can cause a stroke by thickening or narrowing the blood vessels that lead to the brain, mostly by increasing the likelihood of a blood clot. Find out how risk factors for strokes can be reversed if someone stops smoking with help from a pulmonary disease research expert in this free video on the effects of smoking.

Part of the Video Series: Effects of Smoking
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Video Transcript

Hello. I am Dr. Davis Burns. I am a professor emeritus at the University California San Diego School of Medicine. Stroke is a very serious consequence of cigarette smoking. Stroke is produced by or caused by cigarette smoking and unfortunately it's the greatest cause of stroke at the youngest age rather than at older ages when most strokes occurs. A stroke occurs when you don't have enough blood flow going to your brain. Parts of your brain then subsequently die and cease to function. Many people are familiar with strokes, particularly in older people, because what it does is leaves them unable to speak or unable to move parts of their body, an arm or a leg or their face and that severely limits their function as they try to recover from the effects of that stroke. Strokes occur, because you get thickening and narrowing of the blood vessels that lead to your brain. Then you can either block off those blood vessels, because smoking causes an increased likelihood of the blood to clot or you can develop little pieces of clot, little bits of platelets that build up on an erosion from the thickening of that artery that then break off and go to the brain and cause obstruction in smaller vessels rather closer to the brain. All of those factors can be reversed if someone stops smoking.

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