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NIH Record - 75th Anniversary - National Institutes of Health

NIH Study Links Cigarette Smoking to Higher Stroke Risk in African Americans

African-American man breaking cigarette in half

African Americans who smoke are nearly 2.5 times more likely to have a stroke than those who never smoked, an NIH-funded study finds.

African Americans who smoke are nearly 2.5 times more likely to have a stroke than those who never smoked, while former smokers show a similarly lower risk as never smokers, according to a new study funded by NIH.

The findings from the Jackson Heart Study suggests that even after years of smoking, African Americans—who as a group are twice as likely as whites to have a stroke and die from it—could significantly reduce their risk if they kicked the habit. 

The study’s findings, funded by NHLBI and NIMHD, appeared online in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Numerous studies have shown the link between smoking and stroke, but few have directly assessed the relationship solely in African Americans. This new study did that and also analyzed traditional risk factors for cardiovascular diseases and inflammation.

“This study provides further strong evidence of the link between cigarette smoking and stroke in African Americans,” said Dr. David Goff of NHLBI’s Division of Cardiovascular Sciences. “We know that quitting smoking is one way to lower the risk for stroke, which is particularly important for the most vulnerable populations during this pandemic.”

The study included 4,410 black men and women without a history of stroke who were enrolled in the Jackson Heart Study, the largest study of cardiovascular disease in African Americans. 

Researchers classified the participants, who were 54 on average, into three groups based on their self-reported smoking history: current smokers, past smokers who smoked at least 400 cigarettes in their lifetimes, and never smokers.

“The bottom line is the more a person smokes, the greater their chance is of having a stroke,” said lead study author Dr. Adebamike Oshunbade, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. “It’s important to communicate this risk to vulnerable populations, especially with the growing popularity of new tobacco products.”

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