Even in rare cases where smoking does not cause high blood pressure or diabetes, it is still associated with poorer brain health and Impaired Cognitive Performance in people aged 60 and over.
Regular smokers performed worse in cognitive tests
High blood pressure and type 2 diabetes are known to have negative effects on brain health. However, smokers aged 60 and over may not necessarily recover from cognitive impairment even if they have avoided these two highly smoking-related diseases. A study that will be presented at the American Stroke Association meeting in New Orleans on 8 February will show that regardless of any other health problems they may have, the more people smoke, the worse they perform on cognitive tests after a certain age.
“A person who smokes regularly but is otherwise in good health is still at risk for poor brain health,” says Neal S. Parikh, author of the study, which was conducted between 2011 and 2014 on 3,244 participants with an average age of 69. Of these, 77% had high blood pressure, 24% had type 2 diabetes and 23% were smokers. Each participant took four tests to measure their cognitive abilities, including verbal memory, thinking ability, information processing speed, and attention span.
Effects of smoking on cognitive performance
A Higher level of cotinine – a marker of smoking – was associated with poorer performance in processing speed, attention, and working memory, but normal performance in verbal memory and language skills. And their performance in interpreting speech symbols was similar to that of people with high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes.
“We were surprised that smoking does not affect cognitive abilities in synergy with high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes, but that smoking affects them alone. This means that smoking is detrimental to brain health, stresses Neal S. Parikh. “Although this study fails to establish a true causal link between smoking and cognitive decline smoking cessation should still be a top priority for smokers of all ages”.