Quitting smoking can reverse cognitive decline

A recent study was conducted to investigate the link between cognitive decline in middle age and smoking. The study found that smoking does appear to increase the risk, but also that quitting smoking can help people to avoid these issues in the future.
Smokers twice as likely to experience memory loss
The research, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, was based on a survey of nearly 140,000 people over the age of 45. The self-assessment related to their smoking habits and whether they feel they are experiencing any cognitive issues such as memory loss or confusion.
The data showed that 8% of participants who had never smoked were experiencing such issues, while a concerning 16% of current smokers were.
The Ohio State University (OSU) researchers found that just under 10% of participants aged 45 to 49 reported cognitive issues when surveyed, an age that is considered young to experience such issues. They also noted that almost all of the people in this group were smokers.
These kinds of cognitive issues are rarely seen in people in their 40s and 50s, as in most cases the brain does not start to lose function until after the age of 65.
Smoking has long been identified as linked to an increased risk of cognitive conditions like Alzheimer’s, but to see such a high percentage of cognitive issues in middle-aged people is alarming, and overall smokers were twice as likely to experience these problems than their non-smoking peers.
Quitting can benefit cognitive health
An interesting observation came when looking at the statistics for those who had quit smoking. 12% of participants who had quit over ten years before, and 13% of those who had quit within the last ten years, reported cognitive problems. This suggests that quitting smoking can help stave off future issues like memory loss in your 40s and 50s.
Dr Jeffrey Wing, senior author and epidemiology professor at OSU said:
“The association we saw was most significant in the 45-59 age group, suggesting that quitting at that stage of life may have a benefit for cognitive health.”
Jenna Rajczyk, doctoral student and lead researcher for the study, elaborated:
'These findings could imply that the time since smoking cessation does matter, and may be linked to cognitive outcomes.'
The implication being that the sooner you quit smoking, the less likely you are to experience cognitive decline in middle age, which is seen to be an early indicator of later cognitive problems like Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Quitting smoking for the sake of your health is one of the most common reasons for people making a quit attempt. However, this is often due to a health scare or to lessen the likelihood of future illness like cancer and lung disease, and we do not always think about the implications that smoking could have on our brain and mental function. This research sheds light on how smoking can affect every part of your body, but early action can really make a difference later in life.
At a glance
·Current smokers over the age of 45 are twice as likely to experience cognitive issues like memory loss and confusion
·10% of participants aged 45-49 reported cognitive decline, a young age for such issues, most of whom are current smokers
·Ex-smokers were less likely to be experiencing cognitive decline than current smokers, suggesting quitting may be beneficial to cognitive health