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.

Getting motivated

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.

  • Stay positive: tell yourself that you are going to do it!

  • Getting support and encouragement from friends and family can be helpful too.

Managing cravings

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

Emotional wellbeing

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).

  • E-cigarettes.

  • Other stop-smoking techniques.

Information

Other resources

Stroke Association Helpline
Helpline: 0303 3033 100
Email: helpline@stroke.org.uk
Contact us for information about stroke, emotional support and details of local services and support groups.

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) (England)
Tel: 0207 404 0242

ASH Scotland
Tel: 0131 225 4725

ASH Wales
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.