Summary: Middle-aged smokers are more likely to report memory problems and cognitive decline than nonsmokers. People who quit smoking have a lower risk of cognitive decline, researchers report.
Source: Ohio State University
Middle-aged smokers are more likely than nonsmokers to report memory loss and confusion, and those who quit are less likely to have cognitive impairment, a new study finds.
The study from Ohio State University is the first to examine the link between smoking and cognitive decline, using a self-report questionnaire asking whether people experience worse or more frequent memory loss and/or confusion.
The findings build on previous studies that have established a link between smoking and Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, and may indicate an opportunity to detect signs of trouble later in life, said study leader Jenna Rajczyk. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
This is one more proof that quitting smoking is good not only for respiratory and cardiovascular causes, but also for maintaining neurological health, said Rajczyk, PhD graduate. student at Ohio State’s College of Public Health, and senior author Jeffrey Wing, assistant professor of epidemiology.
“The association we observed was most significant in the 45-59 age group, suggesting that stopping at this stage of life may have benefits for cognitive health,” Wing said. The same difference was not found in the oldest group in the study, which means that stopping earlier is more beneficial for people, he said.
Data for the study came from the 2019 National Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.
The survey allowed the research team to compare measures of cognitive decline (SCD) for current smokers, recent ex-smokers and those who quit years ago. The analysis included 136,018 people aged 45 and over, of whom 11% reported SCD.
The prevalence of SCD among smokers in the study was about 1.9 times that of nonsmokers. The prevalence of those who quit 10 years ago was 1.5 times that of nonsmokers. Those who had quit more than ten years prior to the survey had a slightly higher prevalence of CCD than non-smokers.
“These findings suggest that time after smoking cessation is important, and may be related to cognitive outcomes,” Rajczyk said.
The simplicity of SCD as a relatively new measurement could lend itself to a wide range of applications, she said.
“This is a simple assessment that can be done routinely, and at a younger age we typically start to see cognitive declines that reach the diagnostic stage of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia,” Rajczyk said.
“It’s not a battery of questions. It’s a more personal reflection of your cognitive state to know if you’re feeling like you’re not as sharp as you used to be.”
Many people don’t have more in-depth screening or access to specialists — making the potential applications for measuring SCD even greater, she said.
Wing said these self-reported experiences don’t just make a diagnosis or independently confirm that a person is regressing from the normal aging process. However, they noted that they could be a simple tool at low cost and considered for widespread use.
So memory and smoking research news
Preliminary study: Open Access.
“Association between smoking status and subjective cognitive decline in middle-aged and older adults: a cross-sectional analysis of 2019 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System data.By Jenna I. Rajczyk et al. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease
Association between smoking status and subjective cognitive decline in middle-aged and older adults: a cross-sectional analysis of 2019 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System data.
Background: Smoking status can affect subjective cognitive decline (SCD); However, few studies have evaluated this association. Objective: To assess whether smoking status is associated with SCD among middle-aged and older adults and to determine whether this association is modified by sex at birth.
Methods: A cross-sectional analysis was performed using data from the 2019 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey to analyze the association between SCD and smoking status (current, recent past, and distant past). Eligible respondents were participants aged 45 and older who responded to questions about SCD and tobacco use. Survey-weighted Poisson regression models were employed to estimate the design and adjusted prevalence ratio (cPR/aPR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) between smoking status and SCD. A Wald test was calculated to determine the significance of the interaction term between smoking status and gender (α= 0.05).
Results: There were 136,018 eligible respondents, of whom approximately 10% had SCD. There was a standardized association between smoking and SCD, with the highest prevalence of SCD among current smokers (aPR = 1.87, CI: 1.54, 2.28), recent ex-smokers (aPR = 1.47; 95% CI: 1.02, 2.12) and distant ex-smokers. (aPR = 1.11; 95% CI: 0.93, 1.33) each compared with never smoking. There is no evidence of effect modification by gender (p interaction = 0.73).
Summary: The consistency of smoking for both objective and subjective risk of cognitive decline supports the need for future research into whether changes in smoking status affect perceptions in midlife.