Middle-aged smokers are far more likely to report having memory loss and confusion than nonsmokers, and the likelihood of cognitive decline is lower for those who have quit, even recently, a new study has found.
The research from The Ohio State University is the first to examine the relationship between smoking and cognitive decline using a one-question self-assessment asking people if they’ve experienced worsening or more frequent memory loss and/or confusion.
The findings build on previous research that established relationships between smoking and Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia, and could point to an opportunity to identify signs of trouble earlier in life, said Jenna Rajczyk, lead author of the study, which appears in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
It’s also one more piece of evidence that quitting smoking is good not just for respiratory and cardiovascular reasons—but to preserve neurological health, said Rajczyk, a Ph.D. student in Ohio State’s College of Public Health, and senior author Jeffrey Wing, assistant professor of epidemiology.
“The association we saw was most significant in the 45-59 age group, suggesting that quitting at that stage of life may have a benefit for cognitive health,” Wing said. A similar difference wasn’t found in the oldest group in the study, which could mean that quitting earlier affords people greater benefits, he said.
Data for the study came from the national 2019 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.
Survey and allowed the research team to compare subjective cognitive decline (SCD) measures for current smokers, recent former smokers, and those who had quit years earlier. The analysis included 136,018 people 45 and older, and about 11% reported SCD.
The prevalence of SCD among smokers in the study was almost 1.9 times that of nonsmokers. The prevalence among those who had quit less than 10 years ago was 1.5 times that of nonsmokers. Those who quit more than a decade before the survey had an SCD prevalence just slightly above the nonsmoking group.
“These findings could imply that the time since smoking cessation does matter, and may be linked to cognitive outcomes,” Rajczyk said.
The simplicity of SCD, a relatively new measure, could lend itself to wider applications, she said.
“This is a simple assessment that could be easily done routinely, and at younger ages than we typically start to see cognitive declines that rise to the level of a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia,” Rajczyk said. “It’s not an intensive battery of questions. It’s more a personal reflection of your cognitive status to determine if you’re feeling like you’re not as sharp as you once were.”
Many people don’t have access to more in-depth screenings, or to specialists—making the potential applications for measuring SCD even greater, she said.
Wing said it’s important to note that these self-reported experiences don’t amount to a diagnosis, nor do they confirm independently that a person is experiencing decline out of the normal aging process. But, he said, they could be a low-cost, simple tool to consider employing more broadly.
more recommended stories
Personalized brain modeling technique may lead to breakthroughs in clinical epilepsy trial
Researchers of the Human Brain Project.
Investigative reporter, who covered murder-suicides, explains how journalists are vulnerable to trauma
It never really dawned on me.
Got gastroenteritis? Here’s why eating bananas helps but drinking flat lemonade might not
Doctors are reportedly concerned about a spike in.
Immunotherapy combined with targeted therapy for colorectal cancer yields promising outcomes for patients
A new study that used insights.
How total abortion ban puts maternal health at risk
Pregnant patients in El Salvador, who,.
Scientists find that microRNA affects inflammation in lupus disease.
A group of researchers from the.
Researchers unveil new collection of human brain atlases that chart postnatal development
Human brain atlases can be used.
New hope for patients with hereditary metabolic disorder
Methylmalonic aciduria (MMA) is a metabolic.
Keys to making immunotherapy work against pancreatic cancer found in tumor microenvironment
A new study that analyzed the.
Study shows correlation between poor sleep and suicide risk in college-aged adults
A study led by researchers in.