Smoking more than doubles the risk of stroke in younger women compared to nonsmokers, according to a U.S. study published on Thursday.
Researchers noted that heavy smokers were up to nine times as likely to have a stroke.
Female smokers aged 15 to 49 were involved in the study, published in the American Heart Association’s journal Stroke. Those who smoked were 2.6 times as likely to have a stroke than women who had never smoked, according to a team of researchers led by Dr. John Cole of the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.
Those who smoked more were at an increased risk. For example, those who smoked 21 to 39 cigarettes a day had a risk of stroke 4.3 times higher than a nonsmoker. Additionally, those who smoked at least two packs a day had a stroke risk 9.1 times higher than a nonsmoker.
Increased risk of stroke among smokers has been well documented through previous studies. Other risks include lung and other types of cancer, lung disease and heart disease.
Cole said that many studies fail to form a link between the amount of cigarettes smoked and the level of stroke risk incurred.
Strokes typically occur in people older than this study population but the research demonstrated that, even in younger women, stroke risk is greatly increased.
“The more you smoke, the more likely you are to have a stroke,” Cole said. “Certainly quitting is the best thing you could do. But cutting back does offer some benefit.”
Cole said he plans to conduct a similar study involving young male smokers.
The researchers tracked 466 women in the United States who had already had a stroke and 604 women who had not had a stroke who were of similar age, race and ethnicity.
About a fifth of U.S. women ages 18 to 24 are current smokers, the researchers said.
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