Smokers warned they are 45% more at risk of dementia

dementiaIt isn’t the first time the two have been linked together, but more research has shown a clear association between smoking and the onset of dementia.

Despite the fact anybody can develop the debilitating disease, research released by the World Health Organization (WHO) working together with Alzheimer’s disease International (ADI) has highlighted a link between smoking and dementia risk.

The report warns that smokers are putting themselves at a staggering 45% increased risk of developing dementia compared to non-smokers, and the more someone smokes, the higher the risk goes.

The experts involved in the report believe 14% of all Alzheimer’s cases around the globe are because of smoking and WHO state that even those exposed to second-hand smoke (known as passive smoking) can still have an increased risk of developing dementia.

Shekhar Saxena, director of the Department for Mental Health and Substance Abuse at the WHO, said: “Since there is currently no cure for dementia, public health interventions need to focus on prevention by changing modifiable risk factors like smoking.

“This research shows that a decrease in smoking now is likely to result in a substantial decrease in the burden of dementia in the years to come.”

Serge Gauthier, chair of Alzheimer’s Disease International’s medical scientific advisory panel, added: “The research also shows that quitting smoking later in life might be beneficial so encouraging and supporting current tobacco users to quit should be a priority.”

Doug Brown, director of research and development at the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “This shocking estimate that so many cases of Alzheimer’s may be linked to smoking surely means we must count the global burden of the condition alongside the millions of deaths we already know are caused by tobacco.

“With 44 million people worldwide living with dementia, it is now time to rank the condition alongside others like cancer and heart disease when we talk about tackling smoking.

“With no cure yet for dementia, we need more research to gain a better understanding about how lifestyle factors can increase risk and a significant public health effort to attempt to reduce the number of future cases of the condition.”

Dementia is a term used for a group of symptoms that are the result of one of a number of brain diseases, with Alzheimer’s being the most common by far. When somebody develops dementia, it is not only tragic for the affected person, but for all friends and family of that person.

The condition impairs a person’s ability to think, rationalise things and remember. Memory loss is often viewed as the obvious sign of dementia, but there are other signs to look for such as: changes in personality and mood, speech and language difficulty, delusions or hallucinations, wandering or restlessness, depression or anxiety, agitation and balance problems.

The Alzheimer’s Society say there are about 800,000 people in the UK that have dementia. A third of the over-65s will develop dementia, with two thirds of sufferers being women.

As people are now generally living a lot longer, the numbers will only increase. By 2021, there could be as many as 1 million people living in the UK with dementia.

However, people can act now to help lower the risk of developing the disease, such as: engaging in regular exercise, maintaining a healthy body weight, stopping smoking, sticking to a healthy diet and limiting alcohol intake.

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