Smoking, Alzheimer's, and Dementia

Contributed by: Dennis Fortier, President, Medical Care Corporation

Smoking is clearly bad for your vascular health.  This has been well studied and consistently proven through decades of solid research.  Since one key function of the vascular system is to deliver oxygen rich blood to the the brain, it stands to reason that a compromised vascular system could negatively affect the brain.

Based on data from the Rotterdam Study published in Neurology, the hypothesis that smoking's impact on the vascular system is ultimately bad for the brain, is likely to be true.

Researchers analyzed data from 6,868 subjects aged 55 and older for an average of 7 years, all of whom were dementia free at the start of the study.  By comparing smoking habits, including number of packs per day and number of years smoked, to the eventual incidence of Alzheimer's disease and other causes of dementia, clear conclusions were drawn.  Those subjects who smoked in midlife were approximately 50% more likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer's or to become demented from other causes later in life.

In a more recent study, researchers  looked at similar data from the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program of Northern California.  In this analysis, researchers studied midlife smoking habits and their correlation to Alzheimer's and/or vascular dementia in later life, across 21,123 subjects over a 23 year period.   They found that heavy smokers (2 packs/day) had about a 200% increase in risk for Alzheimer's and/or vascular dementia and that light smokers (half a pack/day) had about a 40% increase in risk.

The consistency of these findings should be noted,  especially given the large sample and long period of the second study.  It is safe to add "preserving the health of your brain" to the already long list of reasons why you should not smoke.

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