For those who need a reminder about why it’s a bad idea to smoke, here a few statistics to consider:
–One in two lifetime smokers will die from their habit. Half of these deaths will happen in middle age.
–Tobacco smoke is known to cause a number of cancers.
–The mixture of nicotine and carbon monoxide in each cigarette you smoke temporarily increases your heart rate and blood pressure, straining your heart and blood vessels. Smoking causes around one in five deaths from heart disease.
–Tar coats your lungs like soot in a chimney. Lung cancer from smoking is caused by the tar in tobacco smoke. Men who smoke are 10 times more likely to die from lung cancer than non-smokers.
–Carbon monoxide robs your muscles, brain and body tissue of oxygen, making your whole body and especially your heart work harder.
–Smoking often leads to years of suffering and a slow death.
It would seem that the negative press for smoking could not possibly get any worse. However, researchers in Oakland, California have now linked smoking with yet another serious health problem: Alzheimer’s. It seems that heavy smoking in middle age seems to increase the risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
For the study, a research team collected data on 21,123 people in the Californian healthcare system who were surveyed between 1978 and 1985, when they were 50 to 60 years old.
During an average follow-up period of 23 years, the researchers found that 25.4% were diagnosed with dementia, including Alzheimer’s (1,136 people) and vascular dementia (416 people). Vascular dementia is the second most common form of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease and is caused by damage to the arteries in the brain.
Compared with non-smokers, those who smoked more than two packs of cigarettes a day in midlife had a 157% increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease (!) and a 17% increased risk of developing vascular dementia, the research team found.
The researchers noted that former smokers and people who smoked less than half a pack a day did not appear to be at increased risk of Alzheimer’s or vascular dementia.
Scientists have been searching for clues about the causes of Alzheimer’s for much of the past decade. In particular, much investigation has gone into possible environmental factors, but until this study, only head injury could be clinically-proven to increase the likely-hood of getting Alzheimer’s.
The good news in all of this? Unlike head injury, a tobacco-smoking link to Alzheimer’s is especially important to be aware of because it’s a risk that can be modified and eliminated. There are many, many resources available to help those who want to quit smoking.