In a large, long-term study, British researchers found no link between cognitive decline and smoking in women, however, in men the habit was linked to swifter decline, with early dementia-like cognitive difficulties showing up in men as young as 45.
“While we were aware that smoking is a risk factor for respiratory disease, cancer, and cardiovascular disease, this study shows it also has a detrimental effect on cognitive aging and this is evident as early as 45 years,” said lead author Dr Severine Sabia of University College London in a Reuters Health report.
Dr Sabia and colleagues analysed data from around 5100 men and 2100 women who had three assessments of mental functions such as memory, learning and thought-processing over 10 years, and six assessments of smoking status over 25 years.
They found that smoking was associated with more rapid decline in brain skills in men, while an even greater decline was noted among men who continued to smoke during the follow-up period.
They also found that men who quit smoking in the 10 years before the first cognitive testing point were still at risk of greater cognitive decline. However, long-term ex-smokers did not show a faster decline in their brain functions or cognitive abilities.
In an interview with Reuters Health, Dr Sabia said one explanation for the gender difference found in this study might be the larger amount of tobacco smoked by men, or the fact that there was a significantly lower proportion of women than men among those involved in the research.
It is important to note that while the study uncovered an association between smoking and mental decline in men, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
Sources: Reuters Health, HealthDay News