One in ten cigarette smokers in their forties suffers from cognitive decline

A study found that smoking cigarettes can cause a person to experience cognitive decline in their forties.

A study of 136,018 participants over the age of 45 by a team at Ohio State University (OSU) found that 10 percent of middle-aged or older smokers experienced memory loss and confusion. Overall, smokers were twice as likely to develop brain problems as their peers.

Getting rid of a bad habit can stop the decline. Ex-smokers who stopped smoking more than ten years ago had a 50 percent increased risk of developing brain problems – half of current smokers.

Cognitive problems are rare in middle-aged people, as the brain does not begin to lose function until after age 65 in most cases. Smoking has been linked to several significant health issues later in life, such as Alzheimer’s disease and cancer among others. Women are also more likely to suffer from cognitive decline than men.

Researchers have found that smoking can cause cognitive decline in people 45 years old (file photo)

Smoking has long been associated with an increased risk of cognitive conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, but presentation of these problems in middle-aged people is rare.

For their research, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, the researchers surveyed a sample of nearly 140,000 people about their smoking habits, and whether they felt they had experienced memory loss during that time.

They found that eight percent of people who had never smoked experienced cognitive decline.

Meanwhile, 16 percent of current smokers reported brain problems and memory loss.

Many of these smokers were too young to deal with these problems.

Just under 10 percent of participants ages 45 to 49 reported brain problems when surveyed — and almost all of those were smokers, the researchers noted.

The rate of reported cognitive problems was similar among survey participants in their 50s.

The differences in cognitive decline between smokers and non-smokers diminished greatly with age, although many people at that point develop diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia for a variety of reasons.

What is Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain in which a buildup of abnormal proteins leads to the death of nerve cells.

This disables the transmitters that carry messages, and causes the brain to shrink.

More than 5 million people suffer from the disease in the United States, where it is the sixth leading cause of death, and more than 1 million Britons are affected.

What happens?

When brain cells die, they lose the functions they provide.

This includes memory, orientation, the ability to think, and reason.

The progression of the disease is slow and gradual.

On average, patients live five to seven years after diagnosis, but some may live ten to 15 years.

Early symptoms:

  • Short term memory loss
  • confusion
  • behavioral changes
  • Mood Swings
  • Difficulties with money or making a phone call

Subsequent symptoms:

  • Severe memory loss, forgetting close family members, familiar places or things
  • Feeling anxious and frustrated with not being able to make sense of the world, which leads to aggressive behaviour
  • Eventually you lose the ability to walk
  • He may have problems eating
  • The majority will eventually need 24-hour care

Source: Alzheimer’s Association

“The relationship we saw was most significant in the 45-59 age group, suggesting that quitting smoking at that point in life may have a benefit for cognitive health,” said Dr. Jeffrey Wing, senior author of the study and professor of epidemiology at Ohio State University.

However, quitting smoking can undo some of the damage. About 12 percent of respondents who quit more than a decade ago reported cognitive problems.

This is still a 50 percent increase from the non-smokers’ baseline group, which is a significant decrease compared to non-smokers.

People who had quit smoking within the past 10 years had a 13 percent increased risk of developing the condition, slightly higher than those who had quit smoking for a long time.

“These findings could indicate that the time elapsed since quitting smoking is important, and may be related to cognitive outcomes,” said Jenna Rajczyk, an OSU doctoral student who led the research.

“This is a simple assessment that can easily be done routinely, and at younger ages we will usually start to see cognitive decline that rises to the level of a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia,” she continued.

It is not a condensed set of questions. It is a subjective reflection of your cognitive state to determine whether you feel you are not as sharp as you once were.

The study only took self-reported examples of cognitive problems, and did not collect any data on clinical diagnoses of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

Signs of the devastating condition often begin to appear decades before a patient is in a position to receive a diagnosis, and it is rare for a doctor to tell a middle-aged person that they have the condition.

Alzheimer’s disease is the leading cause of dementia in the United States. It affects about 6.5 million Americans ages 65 and older.

The number of Americans with the condition is expected to double over the next 20 years, as longer life spans will lead to more cases over time.

There is no known cure for this condition, and few treatments are available to slow the progression of the disease.

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