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From the Current Issue

New Research:
Smoking May Speed Mental Decline in Elderly

Smoking may accelerate older adults’ progression toward dementia, a multinational study suggests.

In three of four European studies included in the analysis, older men and women who currently smoked showed a more rapid decline in mental functioning than nonsmokers. Former smokers generally fell somewhere in between.

Smoking is a well-known risk factor for stroke, and some research suggests it contributes to dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. Experts suspect that the harm smoking wreaks on the arteries and blood circulation are to blame.

The new study included investigations in the United Kingdom, France, Denmark, and The Netherlands that followed more than 9,200 adults age 65 and older, all of whom were free from dementia at the outset. Standard tests of mental function showed that, compared with nonsmokers, current smokers showed a steeper drop in mental acuity over two years.

Only in the French study was there no association between smoking and cognitive decline. The reason is unclear, but cultural differences in smoking habits are one possibility. The authors note that before 1950, more-educated people commonly smoked, and initial evidence from the French study that smoking lowered dementia risk was explained away by higher education levels.

Volume 62, page 920
March 23, 2004


The Memory Bulletin is a quarterly publication that presents the latest information available to help you make informed decisions to prevent memory loss and take charge of cognitive health.
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The Memory White Paper from The Johns Hopkins White Papers series is an annual, in-depth report written by Hopkins physicians.



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