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Study Links Heavy Smoking to Alzheimer’s Disease

The Kaiser Permanente study investigated the long-term effects of heavy smoking on Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, and vascular dementia, according to lead researcher, Rachel Whitmer. The findings of the study were published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Smoking and Dementia Risk

Researchers examined the records of some 21,000 middle-aged men and women and continued to follow them for more than two decades. Those who smoked two packs of cigarettes per day had a 157% higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s and a 172% greater risk of vascular dementia than non-smokers.

It’s unknown whether quitting smoking can lower the risk for dementia. Whitmer says another study is in the works to answer that question. In the meantime, the connection between heavy smoking and dementia is another good reason to kick the habit.

Secondhand Smoke Exposure and Dementia

A study conducted by the University of California, Berkeley found breathing secondhand smoke may also increase the risk for dementia. Researchers discovered elderly people exposed to secondhand smoke over 30 years or longer were 30 percent more likely to develop dementia than those who were not exposed.

The findings came as no surprise to the Alzheimer’s Association (AA). Dr. Bill Thies, vice president for medical and scientific affairs at the AA said “It’s reasonable to suppose that anything that is bad for your heart is bad for your brain.”

Smoking to Alzheimer's Disease

What is Dementia?

Dementia is a term used to describe a decline in cognitive function, most often because of damaged brain cells, reports the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC). People with dementia may lose the ability to perform simple tasks like getting dressed, eating, or balancing their checkbook.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia. Symptoms include disorientation, inability to recognize family or friends, personality changes and loss of judgment. About 5% of people between the ages of 65 and 74, and 50% of people over age 85 have Alzheimer’s disease, reports the Mayo Clinic.

Common signs of vascular dementia include difficulty walking, frequent falls, agitation, incontinence and memory loss. Some types of vascular dementia may be confused with Alzheimer’s disease. The two occur simultaneously in some cases.

Common signs of vascular dementia include difficulty walking, frequent falls, agitation, incontinence and memory loss. Some types of vascular dementia may be confused with Alzheimer’s disease. The two occur simultaneously in some cases.

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