Smoking May Increase Chances of Mid-Life Memory Loss and Confusion

Summary: Middle-aged smokers are more likely to report memory problems and cognitive decline than non-smokers. Researchers report that cognitive decline is less likely for those who quit smoking.

Source: Ohio State University

Middle-aged smokers are much more likely to report experiencing memory loss and confusion than non-smokers, and a new study has found that cognitive decline is less likely for those who quit even recently.

The Ohio State University study is the first to examine the relationship between smoking and cognitive decline using a one-question self-assessment that asks people if they experience worsening or more frequent memory loss and/or confusion.

The study’s lead author, Jenna Rajczyk, said the findings build on previous research linking smoking to Alzheimer’s Disease and other types of dementia, and could point to an opportunity to identify signs of trouble early in life. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

More proof that quitting smoking is not only good for respiratory and cardiovascular reasons, but also for maintaining neurological health, Dr. Rajczyk said. Senior author Jeffrey Wing, student and assistant professor of epidemiology at the Ohio State College of Public Health.

“The association we saw was most significant in the 45-59 age group, suggesting that quitting smoking at this stage of life may have a benefit for cognitive health,” Wing said. No similar differences were found in the oldest group in the study, which may mean that quitting earlier gives people more benefits, he said.

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Data for the study came from the national 2019 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.

It allowed the survey and research team to compare measures of subjective cognitive decline (SCD) for current smokers, recent quitters, and years ago quitters. The analysis included 136,018 people aged 45 years and older, with approximately 11% reporting SCD.

The prevalence of SCD among smokers in the study was almost 1.9 times higher than among non-smokers. The prevalence among those who quit less than 10 years ago was 1.5 times higher than among nonsmokers. Those who quit smoking more than a decade prior to the study had a slightly higher prevalence of SCD than the non-smoker group.

It shows a brain
The findings build on previous research that has linked smoking to Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia, and may point to an opportunity to identify signs of trouble early in life. Image is in the public domain

“These findings may imply that the time since quitting smoking is significant and may be linked to cognitive outcomes,” Rajczyk said. Said.

Being a relatively new measure, the simplicity of the SCD could make it suitable for broader applications, he said.

“It’s a simple assessment that can easily be done routinely, and it’s typically at a younger age than when we start seeing cognitive declines that escalate to the level of a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia,” Rajczyk said.

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“It’s not a dense set of questions. Determining whether you feel like you are not as sharp as you once were is more of a personal reflection of your cognitive state.

Many people don’t have access to more in-depth scans or specialists – further increasing potential applications for SCD measurement, he said.

Wing said it’s important to note that these self-reported experiences do not imply a diagnosis and do not independently confirm that a person is experiencing regression from the normal aging process. But he said they could be a low-cost, simple tool to consider using more broadly.

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About this memoir and non-research news

Author: Misti Crane
Source: Ohio State University
To contact: Misti Crane – Ohio State University
Picture: Image is in the public domain

Original research: Open Access.
Jenna I. Rajczyk et al. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease


The Relationship Between Smoking Status and Subjective Cognitive Decline in Middle Age and Advanced Adults: A Cross-sectional Analysis of 2019 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Data

Background: Smoking status can affect subjective cognitive decline (SCD); however, few studies have evaluated this relationship. Objective: To evaluate whether smoking status is associated with SCD in middle-aged and older adults and to determine whether this relationship changes according to gender at birth.

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Methods: A cross-sectional analysis was conducted using data from the 2019 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) questionnaire to analyze the relationship between SCD and smoking status (current, recent and distant past). Appropriate respondents include respondents aged 45 and over who responded to questions about SCD and tobacco. Questionnaire-weighted Poisson regression models were used to estimate crude and adjusted prevalence rates (cPR/aPR) and corresponding 95% confidence intervals (CI) for the association between smoking status and SCD. A Wald test was calculated to determine the significance of the term interaction between smoking status and gender (α= 0.05).

Results: There were 136,018 eligible participants, of whom approximately 10% had SCD. There was a gradual relationship between smoking and SCD, with the prevalence of SCD being highest among current smokers (aPR = 1.87; CI: 1.54, 2.28), followed by recent smokers (aPR = 1.47; 95%). GA: 1.02, 2.12). and ex-smokers (aPR = 1.11; 95% CI: 0.93, 1.33) each compared to never-smokers. There was no evidence of a change in effect by gender (p interaction = 0.73).

Solution: The consistency of smoking as a risk factor for objective and subjective cognitive decline supports the need for future studies to further the evidence on whether changes in smoking status affect cognition in middle age.


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