New research from King’s College in London suggests that smoking cigarettes “rots” your brain by damaging memory, learning, and reasoning capabilities.
A study published in the Journal of Age and Ageing of 8,800 people over 50 also showed high blood pressure and obesity affecting the brain but to a lesser extent. The researchers said that people need a greater awareness of lifestyle choices that could damage the mind as well as the body, reports the BBC.
Health and lifestyle data of the over-50 group was collected after making participants take brain tests, involving learning new words or naming as many animals as they could in a minute. Participants were all tested again after four and eight years. The results showed that the overall risk of a heart attack or stroke was “significantly associated with cognitive decline” among those with the highest risk of showing the greatest decline. The study also showed a “consistent association” between smoking and low test scores.
“Cognitive decline becomes more common with ageing and for an increasing number of people interferes with daily functioning and well-being,” said Dr. Alex Dregan, one of the researchers.
“We have identified a number of risk factors which could be associated with accelerated cognitive decline, all of which, could be modifiable We need to make people aware of the need to do some lifestyle changes because of the risk of cognitive decline.”
Researchers also said that they don’t know how the cognitive decline could affect people throughout their daily lives. They also don’t know whether the early drop in brain function could lead to dementia, though Dr. Simon Ridley from Alzheimer’s Research UK believes that the evidence is persuasive in that regard.
“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. Cognitive decline as we age can develop into dementia, and unraveling the factors that are linked to this decline could be crucial for finding ways to prevent the condition. These results underline the importance of looking after your cardiovascular health from mid-life.”
And, according to The Alzheimer’s Society:
“We all know smoking, a high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and a high BMI [Body Mass Index] is bad for our heart. This research adds to the huge amount of evidence that also suggests they can be bad for our head too. One in three people over 65 will develop dementia but there are things people can do to reduce their risk.
“Eating a balanced diet, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, getting your blood pressure and cholesterol checked and not smoking can all make a difference.”
What do you think of the new evidence? Does smoking “rot” the brain?