SEP 24, 2015 05:11 AM PDT

Dementia and Smoking: The Risk is Real

While it is well known that smoking can cause lung cancer, heart disease and strokes, along with a myriad of other cardiovascular and respitory illnesses, the link between smoking and dementia is not well known. A report prepared by the WHO on the link between tobacco and dementia was released in 2014 that detailed the effects of smoked tobacco products, smokeless tobacco and second hand smoke. The report included details about the pathology of tobacco’s effects on the brain. The WHO report included data from several studies that looked at tobacco use and dementia. In reviewing these studies and collecting the data from them, the WHO estimates that approximately 14% of Alzheimer’s related dementia cases can be attributed to smoking.

Other studies done since the WHO analysis also show links between smoking an dementia. Smoking acts on the brain in a few different ways. Some studies link the thinning of the cerebral cortex to smoking. In a study out of McGill University brain scans of smokers showed that they had significantly thinner brain cortex tissue than non-smokers. Some thinning is normal as humans age, but even corrected for the normal aging process, smokers had accelerated levels of thinning. The good news in that study was that if smokers quit, the brain cortex could recover some of the loss and regain tissue. 

Another form of dementia that has been linked to smoking comes from damage it does to the vascular system. Atherosclerosis damages the blood vessels that lead to the brain and that process deprives the brain cells of oxygen and important nutrients. This called vascular dementia, the second most common form of dementia and it's  caused by reduced blood flow to the brain. While many cases of vascular dementia are caused by strokes and blood clots, smoking has been shown to cause those events, so the connection is strong between smoking and vascular dementia.

The numbers on how widespread dementia is becoming in the United States are staggering.  Alzheimer’s Disease is the sixth leading cause of death. It’s also the only cause in the top ten that cannot be prevented, cured or slowed down. The CDC figures show that 1 in 3 seniors will die while struggling with some form of dementia.

Smoking costs are skyrocketing as well. According to the National Survey of Drug Use and Health, 55.8 million Americans smoke cigarettes. The costs in healthcare for tobacco related illnesses reached $134 billion in the years between 2000-2012. With the two issues of dementia and illnesses related to smoking being so prevalent, the connection between the two needs to be addressed by public health agencies. In the conclusion of the WHO analysis of smoking studies and dementia the organization wrote, “Governments should actively implement and enforce the measures of the WHO Framework Conventionon Tobacco Control, especially smoke-free environment laws and systematic access to tobacco cessation services.” Check out the video below to learn more.
 

 
About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
You May Also Like
OCT 02, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
OCT 02, 2018
Approved Drug may Slow the Progression of Alzheimer's
For many, Alzheimer's disease is just a fact of old age; around 50 percent of people that live to age 85 will get the disorder....
OCT 04, 2018
Health & Medicine
OCT 04, 2018
Lead Paint Contamination in Military Housing Prompts Investigation
Lead paint is a serious health hazard. The sale of lead paint was banned in the United States in 1978, so homes built before the ban are likely to have at ...
OCT 07, 2018
Neuroscience
OCT 07, 2018
Marijuana and Anxiety
Like many neurotransmitters in the brain (dopamine, serotonin, etc.) the when and the where they are released in the brain is of utmost importance in deter...
OCT 08, 2018
Neuroscience
OCT 08, 2018
Esports Curriculum to Study the Brain and Gaming
In the field of neuroscience, there is a lot of research on the effects video games have on the brain. Video game addiction has been declared a medical dis...
OCT 16, 2018
Neuroscience
OCT 16, 2018
Your brain tells if a placebo can treat pain
Placebo effect and predicting when a particular subject will have a placebo response by using as little as psychological questionnaires....
NOV 15, 2018
Drug Discovery
NOV 15, 2018
Treating Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)
A common condition of the nervous system, Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is the overwhelming urge to move the legs. Usually unpleasant symptoms, many RLS pati...
Loading Comments...