Scientists Link Smoking to Increased Dementia Risk

By | September 13th, 2018

Research shows that smoking is a risk factor for dementia, but the good news is that giving up smoking could help reduce this risk.

Without a cure or treatment that stops the progression of Alzheimer’s or dementia, prevention is the best bet for warding off the disease. Scientists at Seoul University tracked thousands of men for almost a decade to observe whether smoking affects the brain. 

  • Smoking is a risk factor for dementia
  • The longer a person has quit, the lower the risk for dementia
  • Smoking also affects the risk for vascular disease, another factor that increases the chances of dementia

We know that smoking is bad for our health, but here’s another reason to quit: Giving up smoking could lower your risk of dementia.

In a large study, Korean researchers tracked 46,140 men over the age of 60. Over the course of eight years, 1,644 were diagnosed with dementia. Researchers conducted regular exams in order to track the men’s health. The longer someone had been a non-smoker, the lower the incidence for dementia.

Those who had never smoked had a 19 percent lower risk compared to continual smokers. For those who had given up smoking for more than four years, the risk was 14 percent. And those who recently quit—four or less years without cigarettes—had a 13 percent lower risk.

You might say that smokers are more likely to engage in other habits that might affect dementia risk. But the study controlled for physical activity, age, health, body mass index, blood pressure and age, among other physical and biological factors. What they didn’t control for was education—a known risk factor for Alzheimer’s and dementia.

While smoking has long been on doctors’ list of risk factors for dementia, this study points out that hope is not lost for those who have smoked during some point of their lives. The sooner you quit, the better your risk profile for dementia becomes.

“Our findings suggest that smoking cessation, or reduced smoking, might be helpful in reducing the risk,” said lead author Dr. Daein Choi, a researcher at the Seoul University College of Medicine.

Long-term non-smokers also had a 32 percent lower incidence of vascular dementia. This finding aligns with many studies that show that smoking increases the risk of vascular disease, which in turn increases the risk of dementia.

“Cigarette smoking is one of the most important causes of preventable death in the world,” wrote study authors. “At least 14 million cases of serious morbidities are known to attributed by the smoking in the United States, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and cancer.”

This study was published in the journal Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology.

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