Smokers have known they’re saying goodbye to their hearts and lungs, but now they can kiss their brains goodbye, too.

After studying 8800 people over 50 for eight years, the conclusion of King’s College researchers is that smoking damages memory, learning and reasoning.

High blood pressure and being overweight also affected the brain, but to a lesser extent.

The scientists were looking for links between the likelihood of a heart attack or stroke and the state of the brain.  In addition to collecting data about participants’ lifestyles, researchers administered brain tests, such as the ability to learn new words or to name as many animals as they could in a minute.

The people were retested after four years and again after eight years.

Results showed that overall risk of a heart attack or stroke was strongly associated with cognitive decline, and those at the highest risk showed the highest decline.

Researchers found a “consistent association” between smoking and lower scores in the tests.

Dr Simon Ridley, from Alzheimer’s Research UK, said, “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.  These results underline the importance of looking after your cardiovascular health from mid-life.”

The Alzheimer’s Society said, “We all know smoking, a high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and a high Body Mass Index (BMI) 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.”

My Take on the study:  The good news is that high blood pressure, overweight and smoking are all modifiable conditions.

Sources:  BBC News, November 25, 2012   SmartPlanet Daily, November 27, 2012        Study published in Age and Ageing


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