Smoking harms brain health, independent of other health conditions

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According to new research, people with higher levels of a nicotine by-product in their blood scored lower on a test for a wide range of brain functions, whether or not they had nicotine. other health conditions known to affect cognition.

High blood pressure or type 2 diabetes – both known to impair cognitive performance – did not change the relationship the researchers found between higher levels of nicotine by-products in the blood and outcomes to lower cognitive tests, suggesting that smoking independently harms brain function.

The results will be presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference. Research is considered preliminary until a full article is published in a peer-reviewed journal.

“We were surprised to find that smoking did not act synergistically with high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes to impact cognitive performance,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Neal Parikh, in a press release. He is an assistant professor of neurology and neuroscience at the Feil Family Brain and Mind Research Institute at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York.

“For us, these results suggest that smoking has a sufficiently strong influence on brain health, independent of other health conditions.”

For this study, researchers analyzed health data collected between 2011 and 2014 for 3,244 adults enrolled in the National Health and Nutrition Survey. Participants were asked to self-report their current smoking status, but the amount of cigarettes smoked was also determined by measuring cotinine, a nicotine byproduct that stays in the blood much longer than nicotine. High blood pressure was found in 77% of study participants and 24% had type 2 diabetes.

Study participants, with an average age of 69, underwent four cognitive function tests that measured skills such as immediate word recall, delayed word recall, processing speed, attention and memory of work.

The researchers found no relationship between high blood cotinine levels and language or fluency test scores. But people with higher cotinine scored lower on a test that measured several types of cognitive functions, such as processing speed, attention and working memory. This relationship remained the same whether a person had type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure.

Although the study cannot prove the causal link between smoking and cognitive decline, it adds to the body of evidence that smoking can significantly increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, including deterioration of health. of the brain, said Dr. Rose Marie Robertson in the Liberation. She is co-director of the American Heart Association’s Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science and was not involved in the new research.

“Effective multiple-episode counseling and medical therapies to quit smoking should be available to everyone,” she said. “Quitting smoking should be an urgent priority for smokers of all ages. It’s never too late to quit.”

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