Scientists are now looking for links between the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus and stroke, highlighting the increased risks posed by smoking and vaporization for patients with COVID-19
New information is coming to light about the complications caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the body, in addition to respiratory and pulmonary disorders. Recent cases indicate the presence of cerebrovascular-neurological dysfunction in patients with COVID-19, such as ischemic stroke.
Luca Cucullo and other researchers from the Texas Tech University Health Science Center (TTUHSC) have been studying for years the effects of smoking and vapor on cerebrovascular and neurological systems, with their research showing that smokers and vapors are more vulnerable to viral and bacterial infections than non- Smokers.
Based on these findings and recent cases of COVID-19 patients, the researchers reviewed the role that smoking and vapouring may play in cerebrovascular and neurological dysfunction of people infected with coronavirus, in a study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences.
In his previous research, Dr. Cucullo showed that tobacco can damage a person’s respiratory function and from there affect the vascular system and eventually the brain. As COVID-19 also attacks the respiratory and vascular systems, the professor and his colleagues wanted to see if there were any reported cases indicate that the virus may also affect the brain and lead to the onset of long-term neurological disorders, such as ischemic strokes. In addition, they sought evidence that smoking and vaping can worsen health outcomes for COVID-19 patients.
According to scientists, some cases show that strokes actually occur in patients with COVD-19 and that rates seem to increase day by day. In fact, a study of 214 patients found that 36.45% of COVID-19 patients had neurological symptoms, further indicating that the virus may affect the cerebral vascular system. How does that happen?
Within the human body, there are about 13 blood clotting factors that can increase due to hypoxia, a condition that occurs when the body lacks sufficient amount of oxygen in the tissues, as is the case with smoking. The researchers report that COVID-19 also appears to increase the von Willebrand factor, a blood-clotting protein that promotes platelet adhesion to the wound area.
“When the coagulation factor increases in the body, there will be a greater chance of clots forming, eventually causing various vascular dysfunctions, such as hemorrhagic or ischemic stroke,” experts say.
And because COVID-19 and smoking or vaping increase blood clotting factors it can also affect the cerebral vascular system, with Dr. Cucullo believes that the risk of stroke is probably higher for patients with COVID-19 who smoke.
In addition, data from a recent clinical study show that part of the damage caused by COVID-19 specifically to the respiratory system is permanent. The same data show that patients recovering from COVID-19 still have an increased risk of stroke and that age and physical activity do not seem to affect the situation. For example, some of the patients with higher risk factors for long-term problems from COVID-19 were active young adults in the third and fourth decades of their lives.
In addition to the damage to the immune and vascular systems and the triggering of cerebrovascular and neurological dysfunctions, smoking and vaping often worsen results in patients with influenza or other respiratory and lung diseases. Because COVID-19 seems to affect many of these systems, Dr. Cucullo points out that health risks are increased for patients with COVID-19 who smoke, however, the virus is new enough to be supported by certainty.