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Expatriate Health Insurance News: Smoking after stroke 'impacts cognitive abilities'

People who have suffered a stroke may find recovery is more difficult if they continue to smoke, a study has indicated.

The research, which was presented to the Canadian Stroke Congress, found smokers typically have worse decision-making and problem-solving skills than non-smokers following a stroke.

Investigators looked into the mental abilities of 76 stroke patients with an average age of 67.5 years old, 12 of whom were smokers.

Tests into brainpower were conducted using a Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) tool, which examined their skills in problem-solving and memory and issued scores out of 30.

While non-smokers and ex-smokers received an average score of 24, the average among smokers was just 22.

Lower scores can indicate a person has problems with visual-spatial skills, attention, language, memory, problem-solving and attention.

Smoking increases an expatriate medical insurance policyholder's likelihood of suffering from a stroke and using international health insurance to fund treatment or palliative care.

When a person abstains from tobacco for between 18 months and two years, their likelihood of having a stroke falls to around the same level as that of non-smokers.

While smoking almost doubles the risk of a person suffering from an ischemic stroke, it also contributes to cardiovascular disease and blood clots, while it leads to the build up of plaque in arteries, increases blood pressure and reduces the amount of oxygen within the blood. 

"Smoking is a risk factor for cognitive impairment for people who continue to smoke and this ability to problem-solve and make decisions has implications for patients' health and self-management of care," clinical nurse specialist at Hamilton General Hospital Gail MacKenzie said.

"There needs to be more effort to help people stop smoking to protect their brain both from stroke and from mental decline after stroke," co-chair of the Canadian Stroke Congress Dr Mark Bayley added.

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