Smoking can increase the chances of memory loss and confusion in middle age

Smoking can increase the chances of memory loss and confusion in middle age

Smoking can increase the chances of memory loss and confusion in middle age

Abstract: Middle-aged smokers are more likely to report memory problems and cognitive decline than nonsmokers. The likelihood of cognitive decline is lower for those who quit smoking, researchers report.

Source: The Ohio State University

Middle-aged smokers are far more likely to report memory loss and confusion than nonsmokers, and the likelihood of cognitive decline is lower for those who quit, even recently, a new study finds.

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

The findings build on previous research that has linked smoking to Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, and could point to an opportunity to recognize signs of the problem earlier in life, said Jenna Rajczyk, lead author of the study, which appears in Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

It’s also further evidence that quitting smoking is good not only for respiratory and cardiovascular reasons—but also for maintaining neurological health, said Rajczyk, Ph.D. student at the Ohio State College of Public Health and senior author Jeffrey Wing, assistant professor of epidemiology.

“The association we saw was most significant in the 45-59 age group, suggesting that quitting smoking at that stage of life may have benefits for cognitive health,” Wing said. A similar difference was not found in the oldest group in the study, which could mean that quitting smoking earlier brings greater benefits to people, he said.

The data for the study comes from the national Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System for 2019.

The survey allowed the research team to compare measures of subjective cognitive decline (SCD) for current smokers, ex-smokers and those who had quit years earlier. The analysis included 136,018 people over the age of 45, and about 11% of them reported SCD.

The prevalence of SCD among smokers in the study was nearly 1.9 times that of nonsmokers. The prevalence among those who stopped smoking less than 10 years ago was 1.5 times higher than that among non-smokers. Those who had stopped smoking more than a decade before the study had a prevalence of SCD only slightly above that of non-smokers.

Smoking can increase the chances of memory loss and confusion in middle age
The findings build on previous research that has found links between smoking and Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, and could point to an opportunity to recognize signs of the problem earlier in life. The image is in the public domain

“These findings could mean that time since smoking cessation is important and may be related to cognitive outcomes,” Rajczyk said.

The simplicity of the SCD, a relatively new measure, could lend itself to wider applications, she said.

“This is a simple assessment that can easily be done routinely, and at a younger age than we typically do, we start to see cognitive declines that rise to the level of a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia,” Rajczyk said.

“It’s not an intensive battery of questions. It’s more of a personal reflection of your cognitive status to see if you feel like you’re not as sharp as you once were.”

Many people don’t have access to in-depth screenings or experts—which makes the potential applications for measuring SCD even greater, she said.

Wing said it’s important to keep in mind that these self-reported experiences do not constitute a diagnosis, nor do they independently confirm that a person is experiencing a departure from the normal aging process. But, he said, they could be a cheap, simple tool to consider for wider employment.

See also

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About this news about smoking memory and research

Author: Misty Crane
Source: The Ohio State University
Contact: Misti Crane – The Ohio State University
Picture: The image is in the public domain

Original research: Open access.
Relationship between smoking status and subjective cognitive decline in middle-aged and older adults: a cross-sectional analysis of 2019 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System data.Jenna I. Rajczyk et al. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease


Abstract

Relationship between smoking status and subjective cognitive decline in middle-aged and older 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 association. Objective: To assess whether smoking status is associated with SCD among middle-aged and older adults and to determine whether this association at birth is modified by sex.

Methods: A cross-sectional analysis was conducted using data from the 2019 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey to analyze the relationship between SCD and smoking status (current, recent former, and long former). Eligible respondents included participants 45 years of age or older who answered questions about SCD and tobacco of interest. Survey-measured Poisson regression models were used to estimate crude and adjusted prevalence ratios (cPR/aPR) and corresponding 95% confidence intervals (CI) of the association between smoking status and SCD. A Wald test was calculated to determine the significance of the interaction term between smoking status and gender (α= 0.05).

The results: There were 136,018 eligible subjects, of whom approximately 10% had SCD. There was a graded association between smoking and SCD, with the highest prevalence of SCD among current smokers (aPR = 1.87; CI: 1.54, 2.28), followed by recent ex-smokers (aPR = 1.47; CI: 1.54, 2.28). 95% CI: 1.02, 2.12), and distant former smokers (aPR = 1.11; 95% CI: 0.93, 1.33) each compared with never smokers. There was no evidence of effect modification by gender (p interaction = 0.73).

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

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