The title to the new study says it all, "Smoking and stroke: the more you smoke the more you stroke." Until now, cigarette smokers have only been told that smoking roughly doubles their likelihood of having a stroke. But an in depth review of stroke studies in the July edition of Expert Reviews suggests that the risk for heavy smokers could be up to nine times greater.
Most smokers think lung cancer is smoking's biggest killer. Few realize that circulatory disease tops the list. Toxic carbon monoxide from each puff eats away the Teflon-like lining coating blood vessel walls (endothelium), while nicotine, a stimulant, elevates blood pressure, makes the heart pound up to 17 beats per minute faster, and causes the release of "fight or flight" fats into the bloodstream. Like egg sticking to a damaged frying pan, the fats build, while nicotine actually promotes their hardening through a process called angiogenesis.
A stroke occurs when blood flow and the arrival of oxygen to any portion of the brain is interrupted, either due to the rupture of a blood vessel (a hemorrhage stroke) or by the vessel becoming blocked (an ischemic stroke). Without oxygen, all brain cells serviced by the blood vessel quickly suffocate and die.
Depending on the affected brain region, a stroke can result in paralysis, memory loss, an inability to think or reason, impaired speech, coma or death.
The paper reviews a recent study of young female smokers which found that the their odds of a stroke as compared to never-smokers were 2.2 times greater if they smoked 1 to 10 cigarettes per day, 2.5 greater when smoking 11 to 20 cigarettes per day, 4.3 times greater if they smoked 21 to 39 per day, and 9.1 times greater when smoking 40 or more per day.
Increasingly feeling like social outcasts, escalating cigarette costs, an inability to engage in prolonged brisk physical activity, and elevated risks of cancer, heart attack, emphysema and stroke, so why doesn't the smoker simply stop smoking? If it were only that simple.
While the rational thinking portion of their brain likely wants to quit, the impulsive region, the limbic mind's dopamine pathways, have been taken hostage.
It isn't that they can't hear the world screaming the insanity of continued smoking. It's that they suffer from a "wanting" disorder, a true mental illness in which their brain screams even louder that smoking that next cigarette is as important as eating food.
Food craves, nicotine craves, their mind's priorities teacher has been hijacked and is teaching a false lesson. Imagine food craves every 20 to 30 minutes for the rest of your life. Welcome to the world of nicotine normal.
Key to breaking free is knowledge and understanding, in becoming smarter than the addiction is strong. Nicotine dependency is a true disease that desensitizes dopamine pathway receptors, causing the brain to grow millions of extra receptors. The brain's dependence upon nicotine and its physical rewiring have created an entire world of nicotine normal where conditioning, rationalizations, emotions and use memories unite to make coming seem nearly impossible. It isn't.
Today, we have more ex-smokers than smokers and none were stronger than you. Why not join them? An excellent starting point is the free ebook "Never Take Another Puff" by Joel Spitzer. Why battle in ignorance and darkness when we can turn on the lights?
Nicotine addiction is about living a lie. While enslaved dopamine pathways scream that that next cigarette is important, the beauty of coming home and going entire days without once wanting to smoke is real, true, deep, calm, comforting and well worth the journey.
The next few minutes are all that matter and each is do-able. There was always only one rule ... no nicotine today! Yes you can! But remember, just one puff and receptor saturation and relapse are all but assured.