This World No Tobacco Day (Sunday May 31) Stroke Foundation is urging Australians to make a wise decision and quit smoking to reduce their stroke risk.
A stroke strikes the brain, the human control centre, and smokers are twice as likely to have a stroke than people who have never smoked.
Professor David Thomas from the Stroke Foundation Health Promotion Advisory Committee said with the spotlight on health in recent months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was a timely reminder to take charge of factors we can control to give ourselves the best chance of living a healthy life.
"It is always a good idea to quit smoking and it's an even better decision to avoid starting in the first place," Prof Thomas said.
"Smoking impacts the entire cardiovascular system, with research finding it causes 17 preventable deaths a day in Australia from stroke and other cardiovascular diseases. While the research evidence about coronavirus and smoking is not yet clear, it is likely that people who smoke may be more susceptible to infection and have more severe complications from it, as is the case with other respiratory infections.
Professor Thomas added it had been encouraging to see government across jurisdictions come together in a preventative public health response to COVID-19 and he hoped the same approach would be applied to the ongoing tobacco epidemic.
"Each year smoking related diseases claim more than 20,000 Australian lives, including nearly 1,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people," he said.
"Australia leads the way internationally in smoking cessation, however there is still more to be done. Too many families continue to be devastated by stroke, heart disease and other smoking related illnesses when they could have been prevented.''
Stroke Foundation is strongly supportive of any measures to reduce the prevalence of smoking in the Australian community.
Stroke Foundation Chief Executive Officer Sharon McGowan said the good news was, quitting smoking has immediate and long-term benefits.
"The risk of stroke and heart attack starts to reduce as soon as a person stops using tobacco products, and after 15 years, the risk is almost the same as that of a person who has never smoked," Ms McGowan said.
Smoking can lead to strokes in several ways. It increases blood pressure, it contains thousands of toxic chemicals which get absorbed into the blood stream damaging blood vessels and causing arteries to narrow and harden and it makes the blood stickier, which can lead to blood clots.
Talk to your doctor about quitting or call the national Quitline on 12 78 48 (13 QUIT).