Lighting up leads to the worst kind of stroke

Smoking isn't just any old bad habit. It's a bad habit that'll kill you -- but you already knew that, right?

What you might not know is all the horrible ways you can die as a result of smoking.

So while it's common knowledge that smokers have a higher risk of stroke, not many people realize that cigarettes can boost the odds of an especially deadly form of stroke called a subarachnoid hemorrhage.

That's when an aneurysm suddenly bursts in the area between the brain and the tissue that surrounds it. But if it ever happens to you, you won't know any of that -- all you'll know is that you've got the world's worst headache, with pain so bad you'll actually black out.

It's 50-50 whether you'll ever wake up again. That's how bad subarachnoid hemorrhage is -- and a new study finds that pack-a-day smokers face triple the risk of having one when compared to nonsmokers.

If you're a smoker, quitting can help slash the risk of this form of stroke -- but you'd better stop now, because it takes a while for your risk to normalize.

Five years after quitting, people who smoked less than a pack a day still had a 59 percent increase in risk. And those who had a pack or more each day were 2.3 times more likely to suffer one, according to the data published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.

That's not the only bad news for smokers when it comes to stroke risk. If you've managed to survive any form of stroke at all, you'd better kick the habit now -- or you'll kick the bucket later.

Smokers who don't quit after a stroke have triple the risk of death within a year when compared to those who quit -- and smokers who start lighting up within 10 days of leaving the hospital are five times more likely to die in that year.

These stroke-related risks alone should be enough to get anyone to quit, but they're only a small part of the risk. Smokers, of course, also face cancer, heart disease, emphysema, COPD, and more -- not to mention coughing, wheezing, bad breath, and that constant stale cigarette odor that follows you around everywhere.

So quit while you still can -- just make sure you do it the right way.

The drugs given to "help" people quit smoking are barely effective and can be even more dangerous than the cigarettes themselves. And the smokeless "e-cigs" now being touted as the safer alternative aren't very safe at all.

One new study finds e-cig vapors can cause sudden rises in airway resistance. That's when air doesn't pass through the lungs as easily, and it's a sure sign these supposedly "safer" cigarettes are anything but.

After 10 minutes of puffing, nonsmokers saw their airway resistance rise to 206 percent from 182 percent. And in smokers with normal lung function (for now), it rose to 220 percent from 176 percent.

It remains to be seen whether e-cigs are any safer than real cigs overall, but with no long-term research -- and precious little short-term research -- I'd say stay away.

Besides, there are much better ways to kick butts for good -- starting with the most successful method of all, the one used by close to 90 percent of successful ex-smokers: cold turkey.

No drugs, no tricks, no gimmicks -- and while it's not always easy, it works.