Quitting smoking is ‘one of the best’ ways to reduce dementia risk

NHS doctor on the dangers of smoking in 2020

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Dementia is a group of symptoms related to the progressive deterioration of the brain. Causing difficulties with memory and behavioural changes, it is commonly associated with getting older. However, there are lifestyle changes you can make when younger to lower your risk later in life.

According to dementia lead for Bupa Care Services, Fran Vandelli, giving up smoking is one such lifestyle change.

She told Express.co.uk: “The link between smoking and increased risk of dementia is well established.

“This is because smoking increases the build-up of plaque in your blood vessels, making it harder for blood to travel around the body.

“This can prevent blood from reaching your brain, raising your risk of developing vascular dementia.

“There is a link between smoking and developing Alzheimer’s disease too, as the toxins in cigarette smoke cause inflammation and stress to cells, which are both thought to be linked to developing Alzheimer’s disease.

“That’s why quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do to reduce your risk of dementia, as quitting will bring your risk of developing dementia down to the level of a non-smoker.”

This was backed by a study published in BMC Geriatrics journal in 2008.

As part of the research it conducted a meta-analysis of 50 existing papers.

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Of these five found a “significant link” between current smoking and increased risk of incident dementia, while seven studies found a “significant link” with increased risk of cognitive decline.

Six found “no significant link” with dementia or cognitive decline and current smoking and one found a “significant link” between dementia and past or current smoking.

The study concluded: “Current smoking increases risk of Alzheimer’s disease and may increase risk of other dementias. This reinforces the need for smoking cessation, particularly aged 65 and over.”

Doctor Naveen Puri, associate clinical director at Bupa Health Clinics, shared five tips to help quit smoking.

Choose your quit method

“You’re much less likely to be able to quit through willpower and motivation alone,” he said.

“Research has found that e-cigarettes can help you give up smoking, or there are different medications that your doctor can prescribe to you, as well as over the counter smoking cessation aids such as nicotine gums and lozenges, and nicotine inhalators, which can all help to reduce your cravings.”

Start slow

He said: “The thought of quitting smoking for good can be daunting and you’re more likely to give up if your goal is achievable. If you start slowly, you’re more likely to succeed or even exceed your expectations.

“Why not set yourself a month-long challenge to stop smoking? If you can make it to 28 days smoke-free, you’re five times more likely to quit for good.”

Set a quit date and stick to it

Dr Puri explained: “Decide exactly when you want to stop. Why not pick a date to stop smoking altogether and commit to it? Experts recommend having a goal in place because it gives you something to work towards and aim for, meaning you can create a plan.”

Know your triggers

“Giving up smoking involves changing lifestyle habits, especially if someone has had an addiction for years,” he said.

“Many people smoke when they have intense negative emotions, for example when you feel anxious or stressed. You may also associate smoking with certain activities, for example drinking alcohol, finishing a meal, or heading out with friends. It’s important to understand and recognise these triggers.”

Establish your support network

He added: “Tell friends, family, and colleagues that you’re planning to quit and ask for their support. Get social support from healthcare professionals too — like your local stop smoking service. You’re up to four times more likely to stop with their help.”

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