Smoking is Major Factor in Alzheimer's Disease
Alzheimer's disease, a severe form of dementia, affects an estimated 5.2 million Americans, according to 2013 statistics.1 Approximately 7.7 million new cases of dementia are identified every year—which amounts to one new case every four seconds.2
One in nine seniors over the age of 65 has Alzheimer's, and the disease is now thought to be the third leading cause of death in the US, right behind heart disease and cancer.
While you cannot change your age and family history, there are modifiable lifestyle factors you can act upon to effectively reduce your risk for developing this tragic disease.
These modifiable risk factors include things like diet, physical activity, obesity, cognitive activity, and tobacco use. Recent research indicates that tobacco use may play a significant role in Alzheimer's disease.
In 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) published a report entitled "Tobacco Use & Dementia,"3, 4 based on a comprehensive scientific review of tobacco use, exposure to secondhand smoke, and incidence rates for all types of dementia, including Alzheimer's.
The report found that smokers have a 45 percent higher risk of developing dementia than non-smokers, and concluded that 14 percent of all Alzheimer's cases worldwide may potentially be attributed to smoking.
These risks hold true across nearly every income level and geographic boundary—including US, China, India, and Latin America. Smokers with dementia also die earlier than non-smokers with dementia.
Tobacco Damages Your Blood Vessels and Brain Cells
Smoking is thought to cause dementia by the same biological mechanisms as its contribution to coronary artery disease, cerebrovascular disease, and stroke, namely by promoting the following three pathological processes:5
Increasing total plasma homocysteine, which is a known risk factor for stroke, cognitive impairment, Alzheimer's, and other dementias
Accelerating atherosclerosis in your heart and brain, which deprives your brain cells of oxygen and important nutrients. Arterial stiffness is associated with the buildup of beta-amyloid plaque in your brain, which is a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease
Oxidative stress, excitotoxicity, neural death, and inflammation that may directly or indirectly be related to brain changes seen in people with Alzheimer's