Can smoking quickly cause mini strokes to occur?

A fellow caregiver asked...

My mother has been a smoker since she was 14 years old. She will be turning 70 in October. She also has vascular dementia. She also is a smoker who doesn't smoke in the home or around my dad. So the quickies cause her to have difficulty walking, talking, facial on half her face to freeze for a short time. Yes I am thinking each time she smokes a quickie she is causing herself a mini stroke. She doesn't understand what is happening in fact saids she is fine. She has fallen many times. What can we do, as she forgets about talks or chooses to forget our talks about not to smoke. How can we get her to stop smoking or is there such a time she will forget she smokes. Not only are we watching her mind go, we are watching her body die slowly. Any suggestions? Thank you Lori

Expert Answer

James Castle, M.D. is a neurologist at NorthShore University HealthSystem (affiliated with The University of Chicago) and an expert on strokes.


This sounds like a very bad situation. Although smoking a cigarette is likely not causing acute "mini strokes", there is no question that smoking causes her overall risk of stroke to go way up. It is much more likely that some of her old stroke symptoms are re-appearing due to some effect of the smoking itself than that she is actually suffering a stroke at the moment she smokes a cigarette. However, it sounds like she needs professional help to quit.

The most important way to get her to quit is for her to recognize that your family no longer considers smoking to be acceptable. She is killing herself, and likely harming everyone she lives with, by smoking and letting those chemicals into the home. I would enlist the help of her doctor. One new medicine that I have heard very good things about is varenicline. It works by blocking the stimulant properties of cigarettes, and making the smoker gain less pleasure from each cigarette. It could help her a lot. I would ask her doctor to consider a prescription. Another medicine to consider would be donepezil - which is helpful for conserving memory in patients with vascular dementia.

Good luck!