A new study from researchers at King’s College in London indicates that smoking rots the brain by damaging memory, learning, and reasoning.
The scientists published their findings in the journal Age and Ageing. The study included 8,800 people over the age of 50, and showed that high blood pressure as well as being overweight seemed to also affect the brain, to a lesser extent.
Lifestyles can damage the mind as well as the body. Scientists were investigating the likelihood of a heart attack or stroke and the state of the brain. The subjects’ brains were tested by learning new words or by naming as many animals as they could in a minute and data about the health and lifestyle of the over-50s group was collected. They were tested again after four and eight years.
The results indicate that the overall risk of a heart attack or stroke was significantly associated with cognitive decline. Those at highest risk showed the greatest decline. There was also a consistent association between smoking and lower cognitive performance scores in the tests.
Cognitive decline becomes more common with aging and for a number of people, it interferes with the daily functioning and well-being, states Alex Dregan, one of the researchers involved. The team identified a number of risk factors that could be associated with accelerated cognitive decline, all of which could be modifiable.
The scientists are unsure how such a decline affects people in their daily lives. They are also unsure whether the early drop in brain function could lead to dementia and other conditions.
Previous research has repeatedly linked smoking and high blood pressure to a greater risk of cognitive decline and dementia, and this study adds further weight to that evidence, states Dr Simon Ridley, from Alzheimer’s Research UK.
Cognitive decline can develop into dementia. Unraveling the factors that are linked to this decline could be important to findings ways of preventing the condition.
A third of the people over 65 will develop dementia, but there are things that people can do to reduce their risk. Eating balanced meals, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, getting their blood pressure and cholesterol checked and not smoking can make a difference.