Most Americans are aware of the health risks from cigarette smoking. Now there is another good reason to quit. In addition to the dangers to your heart and lungs, recent studies show cigarette smoking increases your risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s is second only to cancer as the disease most feared by Americans, and with very good reason. One in eight baby boomers will suffer from Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers in Finland have discovered that people who are heavy smokers in their midlife years are more than doubling their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia two decades later.
Scientists at the University of Eastern Finland and at Kuopio University Hospital, Finland, analyzed data from 21,123 members of a health care system who took part in a survey between 1978 and 1985, when they were between ages 50 and 60.
Diagnoses of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease were tracked for 14 years. Among the findings: one in four participants were diagnosed with dementia an average of 23 years later. Heavy smoking (two packs of cigarettes or more per day) was found to be associated with a greater than 100% increase in risk of dementia and its forms 20 years after midlife.
The good news from the study is that former smokers or people who smoked less than half a pack per day did not appear to be at increased risk of developing dementia.
Smoking is considered a well-established risk factor for stroke and may contribute to the risk of vascular dementia through similar mechanisms, the researchers say. In addition, they say that smoking contributes to oxidative stress and inflammation, which are believed to be important in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers say this study shows the impact of smoking on public health is likely to become even greater as the population ages and dementia prevalence increases. Why increase your odds unnecessarily? If you still smoke and you have ever thought about quitting, maybe this will motivate you.
Please encourage the people you love to stop smoking. There are programs such as the American Lung Association’s free “Freedom From Smoking” program. Call the Lung Association at 800-548-8252.
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