Smoking and stroke
If you smoke you are twice as likely to die from a stroke than someone who does not smoke. Stopping smoking will reduce your risk of stroke.
How can I quit?
Quitting isn’t easy. But you’re much more likely to succeed if you have a little help. This can include using stop-smoking aids like nicotine replacement products or stop smoking medication. Joining a free stop-smoking service can be very helpful.
These give you access to professional advisers, and stop-smoking treatments on prescription. You’ll get individual advice, and support with keeping going. You might be able to join a group, use a quitting app or get email support.
You’ll discuss with your adviser why you want to give up, and decide if you want to go ahead. If you decide you want to quit, you’ll work with your adviser to make an action plan and set a quit date. Your action plan can include a prescription for stop-smoking treatment as well as practical advice and support for you.
Write down all the reasons you want to quit. This could include how passive smoking affects your family and your reasons for wanting to stay healthy and active.
- You could work out how much money you can save by quitting, and what you could do with it. Try an online saving calculator.
- Stay positive: tell yourself that you are going to do it!
- Getting support and encouragement from friends and family can be helpful too.
When you first stop smoking, your craving for nicotine will decrease gradually over a few weeks. But even after you have stopped smoking, cravings can come back at moments of stress, or at certain times and places where you used to smoke.
More practical tips are available from your local stop smoking service, or you can search online for advice such as nhs.uk/live-well/quit-smoking.
How does stopping smoking reduce your risk of a stroke?
When you smoke, several kinds of toxic chemicals enter your bloodstream. These chemicals cause changes inside your blood vessels that lead to a build-up of fatty deposits over time. These fatty deposits (atherosclerosis) can lead to a clot forming, which can travel to the brain and cause a stroke.
Smoking can also:
- Reduce oxygen levels in your blood.
- Increase your risk of high blood pressure.
- Trigger atrial fibrillation (a type of irregular heartbeat that is a risk factor for stroke).
- Raise levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol.
- Raise your risk of a blood clot.
Wellbeing after quitting
Smoking can give you a feeling of relaxation because nicotine alters mood chemicals in the brain. The problem is that you become dependent on nicotine to give you that feeling. When you quit, cravings can make you feel anxious and irritable at first. But after a while, your mood and anxiety levels should improve.
Stay active and eat well
Being as active as possible will help your overall health and wellbeing, and reduce your risk of a stroke. It can also help you avoid weight gain after giving up smoking. It’s great for improving mood as well as reducing your risk of stroke. Walking, swimming or indoor exercise like housework are all great ways of starting to move more.
Medication and stop-smoking aids
There are several different types of medicine and stop-smoking aids that can help you stop smoking. Speak to your doctor, pharmacist or the advisor at your local stop smoking service about which type of treatment is most suitable for you.
- Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) including patches, gum, lozenges, micro tabs, inhalators and nasal sprays.
- Champix tablets (varenicline).
- Zyban tablets (bupropion).
- Other stop-smoking techniques.
- Download Smoking and the risk of stroke (PDF)
Where to get help and information from the Stroke Association
Call us on 0303 3033 100,from a textphone 1800 0303 3033 100
Our Helpline offers information and support for anyone affected by stroke, including family, friends and carers.
Read our information
Call the Helpline to ask for printed copies of our guides.
Other sources of help and information
Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) (England)
Tel: 0207 404 0242
Tel: 0131 225 4725
Tel: 029 2049 0621
A campaigning public health charity working to eliminate the harm caused by tobacco.
NHS Better Health (England)
Helpline: 0300 123 1044
Help me quit (Wales)
Helpline: 0800 163 3657
Stop smoking (Northern Ireland)
Quit your way (Scotland)
Smokeline: 0800 84 84 84
Disclaimer: The Stroke Association provides the details of other organisations for information only. Inclusion on My Stroke Guide does not constitute a recommendation or endorsement.