Smokers in Their 40s Are Most Likely to Suffer Memory Decline, Alzheimer’s

A study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease by researchers from the Ohio State University found that smokers in their 40s are most likely to develop memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease, and possibly dementia. Several studies have linked smoking with lung disease and heart problems, but newer researchers suggest smokers may suffer cognitive decline too.

According to an assessment of 136,018 persons aged 45-49 years, 11% of the study group reported having subjective cognitive decline (SCD) based on data from the US 2019 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey. The researchers compared the results of their survey against those obtained in people in current smokers, recent ex-smokers, and former smokers who quit smoking not quite long ago.

The study revealed that people who smoke will likely suffer forgetfulness, confusion, and memory decline that may progress to Alzheimer’s or even dementia in later years. During the course of the research, the authors of the study asked smokers and recent smokers if they observed a decline in their memory vis-à-vis when they were not smoking. Luckily enough, quitting smoking early seems to reverse the effects of developing memory loss.

“The association we saw was most significant in the 45-59 age group, suggesting that quitting at that stage of life may have a benefit for cognitive health,” said senior study author Jeffrey Wing, an assistant professor of epidemiology.

Lead author of the study and a Ph.D. student in Ohio State’s College of Public Health, Jenna Rajczyk, added that people who stopped smoking for more than 10 years tend to experience very little memory loss compared to current smokers.

“These findings could imply that the time since smoking cessation does matter, and may be linked to cognitive outcomes,” she said. “This is a simple assessment that could be easily done routinely, and at younger ages than we typically start to see cognitive declines that rise to the level of a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.”

The authors of the study made it clear that they did not collect data linking smoking to dementia or Alzheimer’s. They said they based their findings on the self-reported data provided by survey participants, and that the experiences of the participants are no confirmation that every smoker forgetting something is going through an abnormal cognitive decline.

“It’s not an intensive battery of questions,” Rajczyk said. “It’s a more personal reflection of your cognitive status to determine if you’re feeling like you’re not as sharp as you once were.”