Smoking may increase chances of memory loss and confusion in midlife


Summary: Middle-aged smokers are more likely to report memory problems and cognitive decline than non-smokers. The likelihood of cognitive decline is lower for those who quit smoking, the researchers report.

Source: Ohio State University

Middle-aged smokers are much more likely to report memory loss and confusion than nonsmokers, and the likelihood of cognitive decline is lower for those who quit, even recently, a new study finds.

The Ohio State University survey is the first to examine the relationship between smoking and cognitive decline using a one-question self-report asking people whether they experience worsening or more frequent memory loss and/or confusion.

The findings build on previous research that has established links between smoking and Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, and may point to an opportunity to identify signs of trouble early in life, said Jenna Rajczyk, lead author of the study, which appears in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease🇧🇷

It’s also further evidence that quitting smoking is good not just for respiratory and cardiovascular reasons, but also for preserving neurological health, said Rajczyk, Ph.D. Ohio State College of Public Health student and senior author Jeffrey Wing, assistant professor of epidemiology.

“The association we saw was most significant in the 45-59 age group, suggesting that quitting smoking at this stage of life may have benefits for cognitive health,” said Wing. A similar difference was not found in the older group in the study, which could mean that stopping earlier offers people greater benefits, he said.

Data for the study came from the 2019 National Surveillance System for Behavioral Risk Factors.

Research and allowed the research team to compare subjective measures of cognitive decline (SCD) for current smokers, recent former smokers, and those who quit years earlier. The analysis included 136,018 people age 45 and older, and about 11% reported SCD.

The prevalence of MSC among smokers in the study was nearly 1.9 times that of non-smokers. The prevalence among those who quit less than 10 years ago was 1.5 times higher than that of non-smokers. Those who quit more than a decade before the survey had a slightly higher prevalence of SCD than non-smokers.

The findings build on previous research that has established links between smoking and Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, and may point to an opportunity to spot signs of trouble early in life. The image is in the public domain

“These findings may imply that time since smoking cessation is important and may be linked to cognitive outcomes,” said Rajczyk.

The simplicity of SCD, a relatively new measure, could lend itself to broader applications, she said.

“This is a simple assessment that can easily be performed routinely, and at younger ages than usual we start to see cognitive declines that reach the level of a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia,” said Rajczyk.

“It’s not an intensive battery of questions. It’s more of a personal reflection of your cognitive state to determine if you feel you’re not as sharp as you used to be.”

Many people don’t have access to more detailed tests or specialists – making the potential applications for measuring SCD even greater, she said.

Wing said it’s important to note that these self-reported experiences do not constitute a diagnosis, nor do they independently confirm that a person is experiencing a decline outside of the normal aging process. But, he said, they could be a simple, low-cost tool for considering employment more broadly.

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About this memory and smoking research news

Author: Misti Crane
Source: Ohio State University
Contact: Misti Crane – Ohio State University
Image: The image is in the public domain

Original search: Free access.
“Relationship Between Smoking Status and Subjective Cognitive Decline in Midlife and Older Adults: A Cross-Sectional Analysis of Data from the 2019 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System” by Jenna I. Rajczyk et al. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease


Relationship between smoking status and subjective cognitive decline in middle-aged and older adults: a cross-sectional analysis of data from the 2019 behavioral risk factor surveillance system

Background: Smoking status may influence subjective cognitive decline (SCD); however, few studies have evaluated this association. Objective: To assess whether smoking 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 relationship between SCD and smoking (current, recent former, and remote former). Eligible respondents included participants aged 45 years and older who answered the questions of interest about SCD and tobacco. Survey-weighted Poisson regression models were employed to estimate crude and adjusted prevalence ratios (cPR/aPR) and corresponding 95% confidence intervals (CI) of the association between smoking and SCD. A Wald test was computed to determine the significance of the interaction term between smoking and sex (α= 0.05).

Results: There were 136,018 eligible respondents, of whom approximately 10% had SCD. There was a graded association between smoking and SCD, with the highest prevalence of SCD among current smokers (aPR = 1.87; CI: 1.54, 2.28), followed by recent ex-smokers (aPR = 1.47; CI 95%: 1.02, 2.12), and former former smokers (aPR = 1.11; 95% CI: 0.93, 1.33) each compared with never smokers. There was no evidence of effect modification by sex (p interaction = 0.73).

Conclusion: The consistency of smoking as a risk factor for both objective and subjective cognitive decline supports the need for future studies to deepen the evidence on whether changes in smoking status affect cognition in midlife.