Although smoking cigarettes causes similar overall stroke risks for both genders, women smokers appear to be at greater risk for a more deadly and uncommon type of stroke, according to a report by Australian researchers.
For a study published Aug. 22 on the website of the journal Stroke, researchers compared data from more than 80 international studies that were published between 1966 and 2013. They found that smoking was linked to more than a 50% greater risk of ischemic stroke in both men and women.
However, for hemorrhagic stroke, which is more lethal, smoking resulted in a 17% greater risk in women than in men. While acknowledging the results do not definitively prove a difference in risk based on gender, the authors wrote that they were “unable to preclude the possibility of a sex difference for this major stroke subtype.”
Moreover, they wrote, the risk for women smokers was about 10% higher relative to men in Western countries than in Asian countries, possibly because of a greater cumulative exposure to smoking.
The researchers suggested the greater risk for hemorrhagic stroke among women might be due to hormones and how nicotine affects blood fats. It seems that fats, cholesterol and triglycerides increase to a greater extent in women who smoke compared with men who smoke, increasing womens risk for coronary heart disease to a greater extent than in male smokers.
“Cigarette smoking is a major risk factor for stroke for both men and women, but fortunately, quitting smoking is a highly effective way to lower your stroke risk,” the studys lead author, Rachel Huxley, DPhil, of the University of Sydney in Australia and the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, said in a news release. “Tobacco control policies should be a mainstay of primary stroke prevention programs.”