Smoking may double stroke risk for African Americans

By American Heart Association News

WilliamSherman/iStock, Getty Images
(WilliamSherman/iStock, Getty Images)

The risk of stroke more than doubles for African Americans who smoke compared to their nonsmoking peers, according to a new study.

"That risk becomes higher as the number of cigarettes smoked per day increases. The more you smoke, the more you stroke," lead author Dr. Adebamike Oshunbade said in a news release. He is a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson and a fellow at the American Heart Association's Tobacco Regulation and Addiction Center.

Researchers reviewed more than a decade of data from participants in the Jackson Heart Study, the largest in the U.S. assessing cardiovascular risk factors among African Americans. It included 5,306 participants ages 21 to 84.

The study, published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Heart Association, found stroke risk was 2.5 times higher for current smokers compared with never smokers. The number of daily cigarettes made a difference. The risk increased 2.3 times for people who smoked one to 19 cigarettes a day and 2.8 times for those who smoked more than 20.

"We also assessed the extent of fatty plaque buildup in the carotid arteries of African American smokers by a non-invasive procedure called carotid intima media thickness," Oshunbade said. "We found accelerated buildup of fatty plaques in some of the major blood vessels of the brains of smokers, which could play a role in the development of stroke among African Americans."

The study results strengthen the need for targeted health programs for African Americans, he said.

"Our findings support public health initiatives directed toward smoking cessation, especially among vulnerable groups like African Americans. This is particularly important because these populations have been targeted by tobacco companies."

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