Research emphasizes importance of smoking cessation for people with stroke or TIA

Published on October 3, 2012 at 3:02 AM · No Comments

Memory, thinking, decision-making affected by tobacco use

A study of stroke patients from Southern Ontario found those who smoke have more difficulty with problem-solving and decision-making than non-smokers.

The study, presented today at the Canadian Stroke Congress, tested mental abilities of 76 patients, including 12 smokers, with an average age of 67.5 years, using the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) tool. The MoCA exam tests patients with memory and problem solving questions and gives them a score out of 30.

Smokers had a median MoCA score two points lower than non-smokers -- 22 out of 30 compared to 24 out of 30. Patients who had previously quit smoking achieved the same scores as lifetime non-smokers, says Gail MacKenzie, a clinical nurse specialist at Hamilton General Hospital.

"This research emphasizes the importance of smoking cessation for people with stroke or TIA," says MacKenzie. TIA, or transient ischemic attack, is a mini stroke and often serves as a warning sign that a bigger stroke is imminent. "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."

Low MoCA scores can reflect problems in memory, language, attention, visual-spatial or problem-solving skills.

The 10-minute MoCA test was administered to patients attending stroke prevention clinics in Barrie, Oshawa and Hamilton.

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