Smoking Harms Brain, Raises Risk Of Dementia – But Not If You Quit Smoking | state


Everyone knows that smoking is bad for your heart and lungs. But the damage it causes to the brain often receives less attention than it should, from smokers and healthcare providers alike.

Researchers say it comes at a high cost.

“We know that smoking harms every organ in the human body,” said Adrienne Johnson, associate scientist in the Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. “The brain is no exception.”

Smokers are at a significantly higher risk of dementia and dementia-related death. The World Health Organization estimated in 2014 that 14% of dementia cases worldwide can be caused by smoking. Overall, current smokers are 30% more likely to develop dementia and 40% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease, according to a 2015 analysis of 37 different studies published in the journal PLOS ONE. And the more a person smokes, the higher the risk: for 20 cigarettes a day, the analysis showed that the risk of dementia increases by 34%.

Smoking also increases the risk of stroke. Blacks, who have a higher risk of stroke than whites, have double the risk of stroke if they smoke.

On the flip side, studies show that quitting smoking can help eliminate the higher risk of brain damage. Quitting smoking is one of seven lifestyle changes, known as Life’s Simple 7, that research has found to improve heart and brain health.

Stopping anytime helps. But the earlier you quit the better, said Jennifer Deal, assistant professor of epidemiology at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Deal conducted a study which found that smokers’ increased risk of dementia decreased over time when they quit, eventually reaching a point after nine years where it was no higher than those who had never smoked. .

“The message that emerges from our research is that earlier is better,” Deal said. “Stopping in your 40s is better than later in life. But stopping anytime is good.”

Unfortunately, people are less likely to quit the older they get, said Johnson, whose research is focused on finding the most effective ways to help adults 50 and older quit smoking. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 17% of those 45 to 65 smoke, which is higher than the national average of 14% for all adults 18 and older. And older smokers are more likely to smoke daily and less likely to try to quit than younger smokers.

“Doctors are less likely to advise them to quit smoking,” Johnson said. When they do, they are less likely to offer them evidence-based withdrawal options, such as nicotine patches, medications, and other products that double or triple a person’s chances of quitting. to smoke successfully.

“Cold turkey is the most common thing people try,” she said. It is also the least effective.

The good news is that when older people use proven withdrawal options, they work, Johnson said.

And insurance coverage, including both counseling and medication, increases the chances of that success, according to a report released in 2020 by the U.S. Surgeon General. Research in this report has shown that such “comprehensive coverage” increases the rate of people attempting to quit, increases the likelihood that smokers will receive treatment for addiction during a health care visit, and increases the chances that they will be successful in quitting.

People with mental illness are also more likely to smoke and have a harder time quitting on their own, Johnson said. Smoking rates in people with mood, anxiety and attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder and other disorders are two to five times higher than those in the general population, and research suggests that the smoking can even have an impact on the course of these diseases. In the United States, about 1 in 4 adults suffers from a behavioral health problem. Collectively, this group smokes nearly 40% of all cigarettes consumed by adults in this country, according to the CDC.

“People with mental illnesses, such as depression or bipolar disorder, are more likely to have food cravings when they quit smoking,” Johnson said, “so they need medication to minimize cravings and tips to help them cope. “

She advises all smokers to call 800-QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669) to be connected to their condition’s stop line and to see a doctor to find the evidence-based quit program. more appropriate. “Stopping will help your whole body, especially your brain, as you get older,” Johnson said. “It’s never too late.”

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