• Among its other harmful effects, smoking has recently been shown to increase the likelihood of developing Alzheimer's disease.
• Quitting tobacco has been shown to reduce some, but not all of this risk.
• In this article we discuss the recent findings on how smoking affects the brain and what smokers can do to reduce this damage. At the bottom of the article we provide a list of resources for reducing tobacco use.
Smoking has long been known to cause a variety of serious medical problems, especially for the heart and brain. Recent evidence has emerged that smoking does more damage to the brain than previously thought and increases your risk of Alzheimer's disease.
Active smokers have:
- Double the risk of dying from a stroke.
- Seventy percent increased susceptibility to depression and anxiety.
- And are 15 to 30 times more likely to develop a lung or throat cancer.
The the recent evidence mentioned above consisted of a study which evaluated the brains of 500 individuals in their 70s, has found that smokers have reduced brain sizes, specifically the cortex, the outer layer of the brain. The cortex is responsible for numerous mental tasks, ranging from visual processing to complex abstract thinking.
The researchers explicitly state that cigarettes are associated with increased brain shrinkage. The good news is, like most damage caused by smoking, it is partially reversed after quitting.
Smoking has serious negative health effects; this has been known this for years. Recently, evidence has emerged proving that in addition to its other numerous harmful effects, it also shrinks the brain and increases one's chances of developing Alzheimer's or dementia.
If an individual does not want to quit or is unable, they should seriously consider switching from standard cigarettes to electronic cigarettes. While electronic cigarettes are neither healthy nor safe, they contain fewer carcinogens and damage the lungs less than traditional cigarettes.
Resources for Quitting Smoking:
For information on free programs to help quit smoking and information on medication please see:
SmokeFree.Gov: Resources, support groups, strategies, and "help another quit" section.
Medline Plus: Strategies, trials, and detailed information.