Everyone knows that smoking is bad for the heart and lungs. But brain damage often gets less attention than it should, both from smokers and health care providers.
Researchers say this comes at a high cost.
“We know that smoking harms every organ in the human body,” said Adrienne Johnson, an assistant scientist at the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention in Madison. “The brain is no exception.”
Smokers have a significantly higher risk of dementia and death from dementia-related illness. 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 greater the risk: for every 20 cigarettes a day, the analysis shows that the risk of dementia rises by 34%.
Smoking also increases the risk of stroke. Black people who have a higher risk of stroke than white people, face twice the risk of stroke if they smoke.
On the other hand, studies show that quitting smoking can help clear up the increased risk of brain damage. Quitting smoking is one of seven lifestyle changes, known as Life’s Simple 7, that research has shown improves heart and brain health.
Quitting smoking at any time helps. But the sooner you quit, the better, said Jennifer Deal, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Deal led a study that showed that the increased risk of dementia in smokers decreased over time when they stopped smoking, eventually reaching a point after nine years, when it was not higher than those who never smoked.
“The message that comes out of our research is that the sooner the better,” Deal said. “Quitting smoking in middle age is better than later in life. But quitting at any time is beneficial.”
Unfortunately, people are less likely to quit when they grow up, said Johnson, whose research focuses on finding the most effective ways to help adults 50 and older quit. Approximately 17% of young people aged 45 to 65 smoke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is above the national average of 14% for all adults over the age of 18. And older smokers are more likely to smoke daily and less likely 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 be offered evidence-based cessation options, such as nicotine patches, medications, and other products that prove to double or triple a person’s chances of quitting successfully.
“Cold turkey is the most common to try,” he said. It is also the least effective.
The good news is that when older adults use proven cessation options, they work, Johnson said.
And insurance coverage, including counseling and medicine, increases the chances of that success, according to a report released in 2020 by the U.S. surgeon general. Research in this report showed that this “comprehensive coverage” increases the rate of people trying to quit smoking, increases the likelihood that smokers will receive addiction treatments during a medical visit, and increases the chances of quitting.
People with mental illness they are also more likely to smoke and have more time to quit without help, Johnson said. Smoking rates among people with mood, anxiety and attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder and other disorders are two to five times higher than those of the general population and research suggests to smoke it can even affect the course of these diseases. About 1 in 4 adults in the US has some form of behavioral health condition. Collectively, this group smokes nearly 40% of all cigarettes consumed by adults in the country, according to the CDC.
“People with mental illness, such as depression or bipolar disorder, are more likely to have cravings when they quit smoking,” Johnson said, “so they need medication to minimize cravings and counseling to help them do that. in front “.
She advises everyone smokers call 800-QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669) to stay connected to your state’s starting line and consult a physician to find the most appropriate evidence-based cessation program. “Quitting smoking will help the whole body, especially the brain, as you age,” Johnson said. “It’s never too late.”
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Citation: Smoking harms the brain, increases the risk of dementia, but not if you quit (2021, July 6), recovered on July 7, 2021 at https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-07-brain-dementia .html
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