Smoking hastens mental decline
Study shows brain ages faster in smokers than nonsmokers
Lighting up is bad for your brain, according to researchers who found mental function worsened faster in seniors who were current or former smokers.
A team led by Dr. Alewijn Ott of the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, examined the effect of smoking on thinking ability in more than 9,000 seniors in several European countries.
The participants were free of Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia. They took a test called the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) that measures cognitive skills such as thinking, reasoning and remembering and were tested again two or three years later.
The decline in MMSE score was significantly lower for the 41 per cent of participants who had never smoked compared with either former or current smokers.
For current smokers, the average yearly decline was about five times higher than for those who had never smoked.
A family history of dementia did not influence the greater decline in MMSE scores observed in current smokers versus the other two groups.
"On an individual level, a small difference in MMSE score has little meaning," Ott says. "But on the group level, rates of change are more informative and show that smoking has an impact on cognitive function in the elderly."
Smoking could adversely affect the brain by promoting hardening of the arteries and other processes that decrease blood flow.