Study: Smoking tobacco ‘rots’ the brain

By Stephen C. Webster
Monday, November 26, 2012 12:12 EDT
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A woman breaks her cigarette. Photo: Shutterstock.com, all rights reserved.
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It’s well known that smoking cigarettes has many adverse affects on the body, but it may come as a surprise to some that it also has some pronounced effects on how the brain functions as well.

In a study published Sunday in the scientific journal Age and Aging, researchers discovered that regular exposure to tobacco smoke caused significant declines in cognitive performance among older people who had elevated cardiovascular risk factors like high blood pressure.

Researchers asked 8,800 people over age 50 to take a series of memory tests, which were repeated four years later, and again eight years later. They found that any risk factor which elevates the chance of stroke or heart attack causes mental degradation.

While the study initially sought to measure individual risk factors’ correlation with declining brain functions, researchers concluded that all cardiovascular risks have a similar end result. However, the study found that smoking, more than any other factor, “was consistently associated with lower performance on all” the memory tests.

In other words, the study explained, among other bad habits, smoking actually “rots” the brain.

A study published by Archives of Internal Medicine in 2010 similarly found a link between cigarettes and a more than 150 percent increase in the likelihood of Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia.

The Centers for Disease Control said in 2010 that 21 percent of Americans — about 46 million — smoke cigarettes regularly. According to The Harvard School of Public Health, cigarettes remain the number one cause of preventable deaths in the U.S., responsible for more than 400,000 deaths per year.

Photo: Shutterstock.com, all rights reserved.

(H/T: BBC)

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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