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Smoking could be linked to Alzheimer's, study finds

There are countless reasons why people should refrain from taking up smoking, such as developing serious medical conditions and even suffering an early mortality. Despite the warnings, approximately 19.3 percent of people over the age of 18 in the U.S. smoke, leading them to be at a higher risk of developing cancer, heart disease, lung disease and stroke, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. People who smoke also generally experience an earlier death by 13 to 14 years in comparison to their nonsmoking counterparts.

If those aren't enough reasons for a home health care provider to urge patients to give up their bad habit, a new study conducted by scientists from Kings College London may have found a problem people will try to quit for. Researchers discovered smoking could put people at a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's.

Scientists came to this realization after analyzing data from an ongoing study that involved 8,800 people older than the age of 66. During trials patients had blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked as well as their body mass index (BMI) recorded. Lifestyle factors like if they exercised or smoked regularly were also addressed. Other tests reviewing their stroke and heart disease risks were conducted at four- and eight-year follow up periods. During the follow-ups, patients also performed tasks that measured their cognitive and memory abilities.

From the results researchers found people who were most at risk of a stroke and those who suffered from high blood pressure typically had lower scores in cognitive and memory function. However, the real surprise detected was smokers involved were most negatively impacted when it came to memory and thinking abilities.

"Smoking emerged as the most consistent predictor of cognitive decline," said Dr. Alex Dregan, lead author of the study.

Dregan added the new information should help prompt new guidelines for ways to curb or stave off neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer's and Dementia. He suggests those in the medical field should be looking at multiple risks including smoking, rather than just one or two.

"Specifically, interventions to limit cognitive decline should consider the combined effect of multiple vascular risk factors rather than focusing on the management of individual-risk factors as routinely performed in the past," Dregan wrote.

With Alzheimer's prevalence expected to grow as more people reach senior status, finding ways to curb or stop the disease is more crucial than ever. Elder care providers may want to try and get patients to quit smoking, not just to limit its possible connection with Alzheimer's, but also as a way to ward off other serious medical issues.

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