One in ten cigarette smokers in their 40s suffers from cognitive decline

One in ten cigarette smokers in their 40s suffers from cognitive decline

Cigarette smoking may cause cognitive decline in a person in their 40s, study finds.

A study of 136,018 participants over the age of 45 conducted by a team at Ohio State University (OSU) found that 10 percent of middle-aged or older smokers suffer from memory loss and confusion. Overall, smokers were twice as likely to experience brain problems as their peers.

Quitting a bad habit can stop the fall. Ex-smokers who quit smoking more than ten years ago were at a 50 percent higher risk of brain problems – half that of current smokers.

Cognitive problems are rare in middle-aged people because the brain in most cases begins to lose function only after the age of 65. Smoking is associated with many significant health problems later in life, such as Alzheimer’s disease and cancer among others. Women are too the more likely they are to suffer from cognitive decline but men.

Researchers have found that smoking can cause cognitive decline in people already after 45 years (photo)

Smoking has long been associated with an increased risk of developing cognitive conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, but the occurrence of these problems in middle-aged people is rare.

For his research, published in Journal of Alzheimer’s Diseaseresearchers surveyed a sample of nearly 140,000 subjects about their smoking habits and whether they thought they had suffered memory loss during that period.

They found that eight percent of people who had never smoked experienced cognitive decline.

Meanwhile, 16 percent of current smokers reported suffering from brain problems and memory loss.

Many of these smokers were at an age considered too young to deal with these problems.

Just under 10 percent of participants aged 45 to 49 reported brain problems when they were surveyed — and the researchers noted that these were almost all among smokers.

The rate of reported cognitive problems was similar among subjects in their fifties.

The differences in cognitive decline between smokers and nonsmokers are greatly reduced in old age, as many people develop conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia for a variety of reasons.

What is Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, degenerative brain disease in which the accumulation of abnormal proteins causes nerve cells to die.

This disrupts the transmitters that transmit messages and causes the brain to shrink.

More than 5 million people suffer from the disease in the US, where it is the sixth leading cause of death, and more than a million Britons have it.


As brain cells die, the functions they provide are lost.

This includes memory, orientation and the ability to think and reason.

The progress of the disease is slow and gradual.

On average, patients live five to seven years after diagnosis, but some may live ten to 15 years.


  • Loss of short-term memory
  • Disorientation
  • Changes in behavior
  • Mood swings
  • Difficulties with money or phone calls


  • Severe memory loss, forgetting close family members, familiar objects or places
  • Becoming anxious and frustrated at the inability to understand the world, leading to aggressive behavior
  • Eventually he loses the ability to walk
  • He may have problems eating
  • Most will eventually need 24-hour care

Source: Alzheimer’s Association

“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,” said Dr. Jeffrey Wing, senior author of the study and professor of epidemiology at OSU.

However, quitting smoking can reverse some of the damage. About 12 percent of survey participants who quit smoking more than ten years ago reported cognitive problems.

That’s still a 50 percent increase over the baseline non-smoker group, a significant reduction compared to non-smokers.

People who quit smoking in the past ten years had a 13 percent risk of developing the condition, slightly higher than long-term quitters.

“These findings could mean that time since smoking cessation matters and may be related to cognitive outcomes,” said Jenna Rajczyk, an OSU doctoral student who led the research.

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

‘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 bright as you once were.’

The study only took examples of self-reported cognitive problems and did not collect any data on a clinical diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

Signs of the devastating condition often begin to appear decades before a patient is in a position to receive a diagnosis, and it is rare for a middle-aged person to be told by a doctor that they have the condition.

Alzheimer’s is the leading cause of dementia in the US. It affects about 6.5 million Americans age 65 and older.

The number of Americans suffering from the condition is expected to double over the next 20 years, as longer life expectancies will lead to an increase in cases over time.

There is no known cure for the condition, and treatments are available to slow the progression of the disease.

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