Does Smoking Cause Dementia?
In recent decades, a breadth of research has been discovered which highlights the considerable health implications of smoking. From cancer, to certain heart conditions, smoking has been linked with many detrimental health conditions, and accounts for 480,000 deaths in the US annually. Due to this, the consequences of smoking have gained wide media attention, and has resulted in stricter government regulation in many countries. With such focus on the implications of smoking, it is no secret that smoking is harmful for your health. But, what about brain health? Can smoking increase your risk of dementia?
In short, the answer is yes, which is likely not very surprising. The reasoning, however, may be a bit more complicated. It would be easy to say that smoking increases the risk of dementia, which it does, but to fully understand how, we must look at the types of dementia. As it turns out, smoking has different consequences for the different types of dementia. When looking at the connection between smoking and dementia, we should focus on Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia in particular.
Just like the rest of our body, our brain needs oxygen to function properly. A lack of oxygen to the brain can result in vascular dementia, which is the second most common type of dementia. Restricted oxygen flow to the brain results from contracting blood vessels, or a stroke, both of which highlight the importance of the brain-heart connection.
In this sense, smoking increases the risk of vascular dementia due to its consequences for heart health. The nicotine in cigarettes causes blood vessels to contract and stiffen, hindering the transportation of oxygen around the body, including to the brain. This lack of oxygen damages brain cells, often resulting in vascular dementia.
Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia, accounting for between 60%-70% of cases worldwide. As it turns out, smoking significantly increases your risk of Alzheimer’s. A study carried out in California, which followed 21,000 people for around 23 years found that heavy smoking more than doubles your risk of Alzheimer’s. Another study found that smoking increases your risk of developing Alzheimer’s by 79%. Though observational studies have provided scientists with a correlation between smoking and Alzheimer’s, the reason behind the increased risk is not as definitive or clear. Ultimately, to better understand why smoking increases the risk of Alzheimer’s, more research and clinical trials are needed.
How can MindMate help?
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