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Study Links Middle-Age Smoking And Alzheimer’s

October 26, 2010

Those who chain smoke during their middle-age years are far more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new study published Monday the Archives of Internal Medicine.

A team of researchers, led by Dr. Rachel A. Whitmer of the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, California, set out to “investigate the long-term association of amount of smoking in middle age on the risk of dementia, Alzheimer disease (AD), and vascular dementia (VaD)” later in life, according to the background section of their research abstract.

As part of their study, Whitmer and her colleagues studied 21,123 men and women of various backgrounds starting in 1978. They followed the 50- to 60-year-old subjects for an average of 23 years, with the average ages of the patients topping 71-years-old during the times that the respective diagnoses were made, according to an AFP report discussing the study.

The researchers discovered that smokers were 157 percent more likely to develop Alzheimer’s and 172-percent more likely to develop vascular dementia versus their non-smoking counterparts. This is reportedly the first study to investigate the effects of heavy smoking on dementia.

“This study shows that the brain is not immune to the long-term consequences of heavy smoking,” Whitmer, the principle investigator, said in a statement. “We know smoking compromises the vascular system by affecting blood pressure and elevates blood clotting factors, and we know vascular health plays a role in risk of Alzheimer’s disease.”

“While we don’t know for sure, we think the mechanisms between smoking and Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia are complex, including possible deleterious effects to brain blood vessels as well as brain cells,” added study co-author Minna Rusanen, a doctor with the University of Eastern Finland Department of Neurology and Kuopio University Hospital in Finland.

In addition to Whitmer and Rusanen, authors credited on the paper include Miia Kivipelto, also of the University of Eastern Finland as well as the Karolinska Aging Research Center, and Charles P. Quesenberry, Jr. and Jufen Zhou of the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research.

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