Smoking and Alzheimer’s disease

Although it’s hard to imagine why anyone would need more reasons to kick a nicotine addiction, data suggests heavy smoking in midlife significantly ups your chances of developing Alzheimer’s Disease.
In this study, researchers evaluated the records of more than 21,000 men and women in mid-life and followed them for an average of 23 years. What they found was that those who smoked two packs of cigarettes a day increased their risk of Alzheimer’s Disease by more than 157 percent and also had a 172 percent increased risk of developing vascular dementia.
Smoking is known to cause higher inflammation in the body and it also affects how blood clots. As a result, smokers are more likely than non-smokers to experience strokes, high blood pressure and cerebrovascular disease – all of which are risk factors for dementia in later life.
Although heavy smokers showed the highest prevalence of dementia over the follow up period in this study, lighter smokers still showed a significantly increased risk. Those who smoked between one and two packs a day increased their risk of developing dementia by 44 percent and those who smoked just half a pack a day still had a 37 percent higher risk than non-smokers.
With an aging population and dementia rates already on the rise, it is staggering to think that roughly 18 percent of Canadians aged 15 or older are current smokers. This rate hasn’t been going down in recent years in spite of the huge body of evidence showing the many negative effects of smoking. Every year smoking kills roughly 45,000 Canadians – five times the number of people who die from traffic accidents, alcohol abuse, murder and suicide combined.
There are approximately 4,000 chemicals in cigarettes and more than 50 of them are known to be carcinogenic, yet still almost one in five Canadians choose to light up every day. Now we can add increased risk of dementia to the long list of reasons why you should kick the habit if you haven’t already.
On a positive note, in this study (published in 2010 in Archives of Internal Medicine), former smokers and those who smoked less than half a pack a day did not seem to show an increased risk of Alzheimer’s or vascular dementia.
I realize smoking is an addiction that is not easy to quit. If you have tried in the past with little success, speak with your doctor about different strategies and new methods to break this harmful cycle. Your health will thank you for it.

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About the Author

Paul Latimer has over 25 years experience in clinical practice, research, and administration.

After obtaining his medical degree from Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, he did psychiatric training at Queen's, Oxford and Temple Universities. After his residency he did a doctorate in medical science at McMaster University where he was also a Medical Research Council of Canada Scholar.

Since 1983 he has been practicing psychiatry in Kelowna, BC, where he has held many administrative positions and conducted numerous clinical trials.

He has published many scientific papers and one book on the psychophysiology of the functional bowel disorders.

He is an avid photographer, skier and outdoorsman.

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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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