Quitting Smoking and Lowering Cholesterol
Cigarette smoking has been linked to the buildup of fatty substances in the carotid artery, which is the main neck artery that supplies blood to the brain. Blockage of this artery is the leading cause of stroke in Americans. It is important to note that:
- Nicotine raises blood pressure
- Carbon monoxide reduces the amount of oxygen your blood can carry to the brain
- Cigarette smoke makes your blood thicker and more likely to clot.
Because of these combined effects, smoking is thought to double a person's chances of having a stroke. Smoking is directly responsible for a greater percentage of the total number of strokes in young adults than in older adults.
Your doctor can recommend programs and medications that may help you quit smoking. By quitting, at any age, you will also reduce your risk of lung disease, heart disease, and a number of cancers (including lung cancer).
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance in the blood. High cholesterol does not cause damage for days or weeks, but over years. Gradually, high blood cholesterol can lead to atherosclerosis.
Atherosclerosis is narrowing and hardening of arteries due to the buildup on your artery walls of cholesterol along with other fats and debris. This buildup of cholesterol is called plaque. Atherosclerosis is one of the main causes of stroke. Atherosclerosis increases a person's risk for having either an embolic stroke or thrombotic stroke (see Stroke Causes for more information).