SMOKING AND THE RISK OF DEMENTIA
- September 11, 2018
There are many good reasons to quit smoking – or never begin in the first place – like diabetes, poor bone health, problems with pregnancy, heart disease, heart attack, lung diseases like COPD, which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis, lung cancer, mouth or throat cancer, strokes, and rheumatoid arthritis. Cigarette smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths each year in the United States alone. If knowing all that isn’t enough, here’s another good reason to quit. There’s evidence showing that quitting smoking might reduce your risk for dementia.
Dementia refers to a set of symptoms that can include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language, as well as changes in mood or behavior. It occurs when the brain is damaged, whether by injury or disease. Although the terms are often used interchangeably, Alzheimer’s disease is actually the most common cause of dementia, accounting for 60 percent to 80 percent of dementia cases. The greatest risk factor is age, although any other activities or conditions that can damage the brain – including smoking, drinking, and doing drugs – can hasten or worsen the effects of dementia.
In a study supported by a research fund from the Seoul National University Hospital and published in the Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology., Korean scientists discovered that quitting smoking, or even smoking less, can be helpful in lessening the risk of dementia. They followed 46,140 men, ages 60 and older, for an average of eight years and conducted periodic health examinations. Over the course of those eight years, 1,644 men were given a diagnosis either of Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia. After taking into account age, body mass index, blood pressure, physical activity, and other health and behavioral characteristics, the researchers determined that the less time the men spent smoking, they less likely they were to end up with dementia.
Using current smokers as a baseline, men who had been smoke free for less than four years had a 13 percent lower risk of dementia, those who had abstained for four years or more had a 14 percent lower risk, and those who had never smoked had a 19 percent lower risk.
The researchers acknowledge that there were certain limitations to the study. For one thing, eight years might not have been long enough for them to catch all of the cases of dementia, as it’s a condition that tends to develop slowly. They also didn’t have any data available on the education levels of the men involved in the study, and it’s believed that people with lower levels of education are more at risk for dementia. Specifically, for each additional year of education there is an 11 percent decrease in risk.
If you or a loved one need help with quitting drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504 to get started.