No Smoking Day: smokers encouraged to quit to reduce dementia risk.

No Smoking Day: Smokers unaware that quitting smoking will reduce risk of dementia.

Health experts are encouraging smokers to quit to protect their brain health as research shows those who smoke are more likely to develop dementia.

According to Alzheimer’s Research UK, dementia is the most feared health condition for people over the age of 55 – more than any other life-threatening disease including cancer and diabetes.[1]

But YouGov data [2] commissioned by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) revealed that just 1 in 5 (19%) of smokers in the South East know that smoking increases the risk of dementia, compared to 76% who know that smoking causes lung diseases or cancers.

Dr Chi Udeh-Momoh, a neuroscientist and dementia prevention expert based at Imperial College London, said

“If you smoke, quitting is perhaps the most important step you can take to protect both your heart and your brain. It really can be life-changing.

“Many people know that smoking affects the heart and blood vessels, increasing the risk of conditions like high blood pressure and stroke. But fewer realise that these conditions, in turn, increase the risk of dementia, or that the chemicals in cigarette smoke can speed up the natural ageing of the brain.

Smoking raises the risk of developing dementia [3], particularly Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia, as it harms the vascular system (heart and blood vessels) and the brain. [4]. Studies also suggest that quitting smoking reduces this risk substantially [5], and smoking has been identified as one of twelve risk factors that if eliminated entirely, could collectively prevent or delay up to 40% of dementia cases.[3]

However, data from Alzheimer’s Research UK show only a third of UK adults know there are things they can do to help reduce their risk of dementia [1], and stopping smoking is one of them.

Hilary Evans, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

“Just a third of people realise that we can take steps to help reduce our risk of developing dementia in later life. This has to change, which is why improving people’s understanding of the things that they can do to shape their brain health is a real priority for Alzheimer’s Research UK.

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References

[1] Alzheimer’s Research UK.  Public attitudes towards dementia. 2021.

[2] ASH Smokefree GB Adult Survey. Total sample size was 13,088 respondents. The online survey was undertaken between 16th February – 21st March 2022. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults

[3] Livingston G, Huntley J, Sommerlad A, Ames D, Ballard C, Banerjee S, Brayne C, Burns A, Cohen-Mansfield J, Cooper C, Costafreda SG. Dementia prevention, intervention, and care: 2020 report of the Lancet Commission. The Lancet. 2020 Aug 8;396(10248):413-46.

[4]  Tobacco use and dementia. WHO tobacco knowledge summaries. 8 July 2014[5] “Former smokers did not show an increased risk of all-cause dementia (RR 1.01, 95% CI 0.96-1.06), AD (RR 1.04, 95% CI 0.96-1.13) and VaD (RR 0.97, 95% CI 0.83-1.13).” 2015 meta-analysis – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25763939/