The advice that “smoking is bad for you” may be old news, but the American Heart Association has released a new study in their journal Stroke, which reveals women are more susceptible to certain stroke-related risks that result from smoking.

For the study, researchers analyzed data from over 80 studies worldwide from 1966 to 2013. In total, the studies included nearly four million individuals and over 42,000 cases of strokes.

Results show that compared with non-smokers, both men and women who smoke have a 60-80% increased risk for having any type of stroke. Smoking also causes a 50% greater risk of ischemic stroke, the most common one – caused by a blood clot – in both men and women.

But further results show that the risk for the most deadly kind of stroke – hemorrhagic stroke, which is caused by a brain bleed – is 17% higher for female smokers than for male smokers.

The researchers suggest that the reason this risk may be higher in women comes down to hormones and how nicotine can impact blood fats. They say that fats, cholesterol and triglycerides tend to increase more in women who smoke, compared with their male smoker counterparts.

This combination of elevated blood fats and smoking in females can increase the risk for coronary heart disease more so than for men, researchers say.

Additional findings from the study reveal that compared with male smokers, the stroke risk for female smokers in Western countries is 10% higher than it is in Asian countries, which researchers suggest is due to a “greater cumulative exposure to smoking.”

The researchers say that the study also found evidence that quitting smoking can “significantly reduce their stroke risk.”

Lead author Rachel Huxley says:

Cigarette smoking is a major risk factor for stroke for both men and women, but fortunately, quitting smoking is a highly effective way to lower your stroke risk. Tobacco control policies should be a mainstay of primary stroke prevention programs.”

An August 2013 BMJ study revealed that a UK-based “stop smoking” program successfully saved 25,000 years of life.

The American Heart Association provides guidelines for how to deal with urges to smoke while quitting, including:

  • Identifying triggers that make you want to smoke
  • Selecting ways of coping with your trigger situations
  • Putting your plan into action and being ready to act if you feel the urge to smoke.

Other recommendations include taking deep breaths, going for a walk, trying to relax, calling a friend and cutting back on caffeine.