Smoking and Aneurysms

This is an interesting article pertaining to aneurysms and smoking.

Smoking, Family History Increase Risk of Stroke

By Rose Hoban, Durham, North Carolina

Every day people are stricken by stroke. There are two kinds of this brain injury: The first occurs when a blood clot blocks blood flow to the brain, denying oxygen to the brain cells. The other kind of stroke occurs when a person has a hemorrhage in the brain or the surrounding structures. Hemorrhagic strokes are devastating. Forty percent of people who experience one will die. Most surviving patients are left with significant disability.

Most hemorrhagic strokes are caused by aneurysms

Daniel Woo, a researcher at the University of Cincinnati, says most of these hemorrhagic strokes are caused by aneurysms. Woo explains an aneurysm is caused by a weakness in the wall of an artery. Under pressure, those aneurysms can expand like balloons, stretching the arterial wall. 

”And if that enlarges badly enough, it can also burst and cause a hemorrhage,” Woo says. 

Now Woo has done research that looks at the relationship between hemorrhagic strokes and smoking. He says researchers have known smoking is a risk factor for aneurysm formation.

“We also know that having a family member who had a history of aneurysm rupture was also a risk factor for aneurysm formation,” Woo says. 

Woo looked at several hundred people who had had ruptured aneurysms and compared them to people who did not have aneurysms. He found that people who smoked had double the risk for aneurysm. His analysis also found that those with a family history of aneurysm also had twice the risk of forming one. But people who had the family history and who smoked were six times more likely to have a hemorrhagic stroke. He says that means hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people are at much greater risk of having a hemorrhagic stroke due to a combination of genes and behavior.

”Twenty percent of the population [in the U.S.] smokes, and 1 percent of the population has an aneurysm in their head that they just don’t know about,” Woo says. “So the rates can be fairly high of people having this, but so we’re still talking about maybe 1 percent of the population, maybe one in 100 people.” 

Woo says it doesn’t sound large, but he maintains it’s still a significant percentage of the population. 

Woo says that studies have indicated that aneurysms form gradually over time. He proposes that something about smoking causes them to form more readily. 

Woo says one message from this research is clear: Quitting smoking almost immediately reduces the risk of rupturing an aneurysm.

His research is published in Neurology, the journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Devastating Couple of Weeks

A few days after Christmas, we received news that Dave’s niece, Kim, had died of a massive ruptured brain aneurysm. It was bad enough we lost her at the all-too young age of 32, but once we found out the cause of death, it threw a level of other issues at me because I too, had suffered a ruptured aneurysm.

Why did mine rupture the way it did and why didn’t I die? Why? Why? Why? All questions one can’t answer. I have my own “whys”, her mother has her own “whys” as do many other people. Like most undetected annies, Kim didn’t know she had it and as far as everyone knew, she was very healthy and living an active, if not stressful, life at the time of her death.

There are so many people who survive ruptures, so many who do not and even the consistent threads that DO link some of these people together such as smokers, hereditary, age, women….aren’t consistent enough for people to instantly know they have an annie. Some smokers who have a history of annies in their families, never get aneurysms, while other families have multiple deaths and ruptures in their families.

It was just the irony of Kim having one when she was not a blood relative of mine and didn’t display any of the so-called “symptoms” that may, or may not, occur from an annie. She did suffer from migraines, but so do millions of other people and they do not have aneurysms, so one can’t say that was a “sign” for sure. My mother had migraines, both my sisters do, my aunt and myself. I’ve had two first cousins with annies and myself.  I wish my sisters and niece would get CTA’s. At least if you KNOW you have one, you have a fighting chance of surviving. If you don’t know you have one, and it ruptures, chances of survival decrease the older you get and obviously, the severity of the rupture, location and size of the aneurysm. So many factors
come in to play and it’s different for every person.

I started to look at it like suffering with an annie was something special and because the brain is effected, it’s just that much more serious than anyone else’s maladies, but truthfully, it’s no different than suffering a catastrophic heart attack or stroke, or being hit by a car. You may, or may not survive. Many are lucky, many are not and trying to figure out the “whys” can eat you alive.

As Dave says…”It is what it is.” and often times we just have to accept what “is” and move on no matter how terribly difficult it can be without those we love beside us.

Also today, I get news that my cousin Jennifer, who had been fighting a brain tumor since 1999 is close to death’s door. How painful it has been to read her brother’s posts on The Caring Bridge website about her battle and how terrible is must be for them to watch her deteriorate and not be able to help her in anyway. I know how helpless one can feel after watching my own father fade away from us for months. Jennifer has been so strong with her battle and always gave others strength. I pray God gives her entire family strength and comfort now as we wait for news.