STUDY: Smoking Cigarettes Rots Brain, Decreases Cognitive Ability

By iScience Times Staff Reporter on November 26, 2012 2:28 PM EST

smoke
Smoking cigarettes rots your brain according to a new study from King's College London. (Photo: Flickr.com / The Dream Sky)

Smoking cigarettes stinks. Even many habitual smokers will admit that. And although it's been well known that smoking destroys your lungs and can often lead to cancer, a new study has found that smoking might be even worse for your health than we initially thought.

In a study published in Age and Aging, a scientific journal, researchers are report that repeated exposure to tobacco smoke significantly declined the cognitive performance of older people that had elevated cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure.

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The study included 8,800 people over the age of 50. High blood pressure and being overweight also appeared to affect the brain at an old age, but to a lesser extent than smoking. Researchers were from King's College London, and they were trying to investigate the likelihood of a heart attack or stroke and the state of the brain during those periods.

The researchers found that risk of heart attack and stroke was strongly associated with cognitive decline. Those at the highest risk for a heart attack and stroke showed the greatest decline of cognitive ability. Smoking habitually was strongly associated with lower scores on the tests. With these findings, the researchers inferred that smoking cigarettes actually rots the brain.

"Cognitive decline becomes more common with ageing and for an increasing number of people interferes with daily functioning and well-being," said researcher Dr. Alex Dregan in a BBC report. "We have identified a number of risk factors which could be associated with accelerated cognitive decline, all of which, could be modifiable... We need to make people aware of the need to do some lifestyle changes because of the risk of cognitive decline."

This is not the first time that smoking cigarettes has been found to be associated with mental health decline. In 2010, a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that cigarette smokers were more than 150 percent more likely to experience symptoms of Alzheimer's and vascular dementia. 

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