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.
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