Smoking and Dementia: What You Should Know
Recent studies have shown that there may be an increased risk of dementia among individuals who smoke. Although not all who smoke get dementia, studies have shown that quitting can significantly reduce the risk of developing this disease.
Dementia causes damage to the brain from certain conditions. At this time, there isn’t a cure for dementia. It is a progressive disease, and individuals with dementia will eventually need residential care. There are many forms of dementia with some that are much more common than others. The most commonly seen types of dementia include:
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. It causes loss of brain cells, which leads to dementia. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for an estimated two thirds of dementia cases.
Vascular dementia is the second mot common type of dementia. This type develops when blood supply to the brain is impaired.
Frontotemporal dementia forms when nerve cells in the temporal and frontal lobes in the brain stop functioning, which causes the pathways in the lobes to change.
Dementia with Lewy Bodies
Dementia with Lewy Bodies occurs in about 10% of individuals with dementia. It occurs when protein deposits accumulate in the cells of the brain that leads to loss of function.
Mixed dementia is when individuals develop more than one type of dementia, which may include vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
What has Research Shown About Smoking and Dementia?
Research has shown that the two most common types of dementia have been linked to problems with the vascular system. Smoking increases the risk of strokes and other brain and vascular problems, which are also commonly seen among those with dementia.
The World Alzheimer’s Report 2014 included data from 14 studies that found smokers had a significantly higher risk of developing dementia than nonsmokers. In addition, the 2017 Lancet Commission on Dementia Risk reported that smoking was one of the nine modifiable risk factors of developing dementia.
Smoking can lead to lung cancer, strokes, heart disease, diabetes, poor immune function, and rheumatoid arthritis. Many of the proven effects of smoking have been linked to dementia. Some research has suggested that an estimated 14% of dementia cases across the world could be attributed to smoking. Furthermore, systematic reviews has shown that smoking can lead to an increased risk of developing dementia by 30%-50%.
A Healthy Heart is a Healthy Brain
The heart is responsible for pumping blood throughout the body, and our brains use about 20 to 25 percent of our blood for oxygen and nutrients. Smoking is known to tighten and damage blood vessels in the heart, which can lead to restricted blood flow to the brain. When the brain is deprived of essential oxygen and nutrients, it raises the risk of dementia. This is because the oxidative stress and inflammation that smoking has on the brain are direct risk factors of dementia.
Smoking also causes an increase in plasma levels of homocysteine, which is an amino acid. Homocysteine is known to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and vascular dementia. In addition, this amino acid is also linked to more rare forms of dementia.
Does the Amount of Cigarettes You Smoke Increase or Decrease Your Risk?
The World Alzheimer’s Reported carried out a number of studies regarding dementia and the amount of cigarettes individuals smoked. Two of these studies found that there was a relationship between a higher risk of dementia and higher tobacco consumption.
Another study found that individuals who smoked but quit did not seem to have an increased risk of developing dementia. In addition, those who smoked less than half a pack of cigarettes per day had a lower risk of developing the disease.
What Does All This Mean?
In the past, there was controversy regarding smoking and dementia. However, the numerous studies on the subject have shown that smoking affects the development of dementia through neurodegenerative and vascular pathways.
Evidence has shown that stopping smoking can drastically reduce the risk of developing dementia. Research suggests that when an individual has quit for several years, his or her risk of developing dementia is similar to those who never smoked. There are even foods that ex-smokers can eat that fight Alzheimer’s disease.