Study Finds Smoking Linked to Mid-Life Cognitive Decline, Confusion

January 3, 2023 15:25:50

Researchers at The Ohio State University have discovered that middle-aged smokers have a higher likelihood of experiencing confusion and memory loss in comparison to their nonsmoking counterparts. The study, which is the first to look into the link between cognitive decline and smoking, has also found that the likelihood of cognitive decline is lower in individuals who stopped smoking.

The researchers were also focused on determining whether this link was modified by gender at birth. Their findings build on prior studies that established links between smoking and forms of dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease.

For their study, the researchers used data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. The survey, which was conducted in 2019, involved asking individuals if they had experienced more frequent or worsening memory loss and/or confusion as current or former smokers. The researchers’ analysis included 136,018 individuals and involved comparing measures of subjective cognitive decline for recent former smokers, current smokers and persons who had stopped smoking years earlier.

They observed that the prevalence of subjective cognitive decline among individuals who had stopped smoking less than a decade ago was 1.5 times that of nonsmokers while the prevalence of the same among current smokers was almost two times that of the nonsmoking group. This was is in addition to observing that individuals who stopped smoking over 10 years prior to the survey had a prevalence that was slightly above that of the nonsmokers.

The lead author of the study, Jenna Rajczyk, stated that the group’s findings could help identify signs of trouble earlier and explained that quitting smoking would help preserve neurological health, in addition to reducing an individual’s risk for various cardiovascular and respiratory conditions. In addition, Rajczyk noted that assessing for subjective cognitive decline could be done routinely and at younger ages than cognitive decline typically begun. She added that most individuals didn’t have access to specialists or in-depth screenings, which made the potential applications for measuring subjective cognitive decline even greater.

Assistant professor of epidemiology Jeffrey Wing added that the link the researchers had observed was most significant in individuals aged between 45 to 59, which suggested that quitting smoking at this age could greatly benefit cognitive health. Wing was the senior author of the study. Furthermore, Wing highlighted that it was crucial to note that self-reported experiences didn’t confirm that an individual was experiencing decline not usual in the normal aging process and neither did they amount to diagnoses.

The study’s findings were reported in the “Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

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