We have all heard about the effects of tobacco on our lungs, but new scientific research has revealed that tobacco may also be detrimental to the functioning of our brains and therefore also damage our mental health.
A new psychiatric study shows that tobacco causes additional cognitive degradation in some men, beyond the normal decline as they age. The vocabulary executive function and overall cognition was tested among the subjects. The study concluded that male smokers had a more rapid decline in mental capacity in the same amount of time than nonsmokers.
Although the same trend was not seen in women, the researchers do not yet know why.
More than 40 million American adults smoke cigarettes, which have been found to be the leading preventable cause of death in the United States.
The new study comes in the context of a World Health Organization report that smokers have a 45 percent higher chance of developing dementia than nonsmokers. This statistic covers both men and women. The research seems to correlate the amount of cigarette smoke to the amount of risk of developing dementia. The WHO warns that second-hand smoke also can contribute to the negative impact on brain function.
The differences in the imaging of the brain between in the brains of smokers and nonsmokers showed a size difference in the cortex – that is, the cortex, which grows thinner with age, was found to be smaller in smokers. The cortex is the outer layer of the brain which is responsible for memory, attention, perception, thought, and language.
The researchers did conclude that men with a family history of cognitive issues would be wise to avoid smoking. Further, quitting smoking even after decades of the habit has clear benefits, according to researchers. For example, the cessation of smoking can reduce thinning of the cortex, although it will not completely reverse.
The risk to cognitive function, as well as the risk of lung cancer, may be greatly reduced when even long-time smokers quit.