Cardiologist, author, and heart health expert Dr. Sarah Samaan offers advice on how to live a heart smart life.See all posts »
Dementia: Another Good Reason to Quit Smoking
Dementia devastates the lives of over 5 million Americans and the ones they love. 1 in 20 of those age 71-79 and 1 in 4 people over the age of 80 suffers from some type of dementia. In rare instances, Alzheimer’s dementia, the most common form of the disease, can affect folks in their 50’s and younger.
The food we eat, obesity, and exercise can all play a role in the development of dementia. So can smoking. In a recent study of over 21,000 Northern Californians followed for 23 years, researcher Dr. Minna Rusanen and colleagues found that the eventual likelihood of dementia amongst 2-pack-a-day middle-aged smokers was well over twice that of the non-smokers studied. Even half a pack per day bumped up the chances of dementia by about 30 percent. Stroke risk was also substantially higher for smokers.
There is no cure for dementia, and it nearly always gets worse, although some medications can slightly slow its progression. The effects on caregivers, family, and loved ones are devastating. If you’re a smoker, the sooner you quit smoking, the better off you’ll be.
Giving up a smoking habit is rarely easy, and there is no simple solution. Tobacco is even more addictive the heroin, and many people will try to quit several times before they are successful. Most will need some type of aid to help them get through the withdrawal period. Nicotine patches or chewing gum work for some people. For others, hypnosis or acupuncture may be helpful. If none of these options work, prescription drugs such as Chantix or buproprion (Welbutrin) are often reasonable alternatives, although they should be taken under a doctor’s supervision since they can cause side effects, including depression and agitation.
No matter what solution you choose, it’s important to never give up. Besides contributing to dementia and stroke, smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease, and a known cause of many forms of cancer, including lung cancer, head and neck cancer, and bladder cancer. Quitting smoking is a life affirming decision, but only you can make it happen.