The Link Between Smoking and Dementia

According to a new study that was conducted in South Korea, you have a higher risk of developing dementia if you are a smoker. The study, which began in 2002, focused on 46,000 men over the age of 60. By the end of the study, 1,644 of those men were diagnosed with dementia. Compared to individuals who continued their smoking habits, the study found that those who quit smoking or had never picked up the habit of smoking had a 14 to 19 percent decreased risk of dementia. Interestingly, the study also found that the risk of dementia related to smoking was actually reversible in those who quit early enough. However, given the limitations on the study, it may not have been conducted long enough to gain insight into how smoking cessation impacted those already diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, which is a condition that progresses over time. Still, Janine Cataldo of the University of San Francisco Center for Tobacco Control Research says that smoking cessation is valuable in preventing or slowing down the progression of dementia as well as preventing the risk of developing other diseases and health issues.

  • Lung cancer
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart attack or stroke
  • Unhealthy teeth
  • Decreased sense of smell or taste
  • Premature aging
  • Wrinkly skin
  • Dry skin
  • Blood clots
  • Diabetes complications
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakened immune system
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Infertility
  • Early menopause

For anyone who has been a long-time smoker, quitting can be difficult. It’s similar to weight loss in the sense that it’s not uncommon to fail on your first try. One deterrent can also be the fact that when you quit smoking, you’re also likely to develop withdrawal symptoms which can sometimes be quite severe. Even if you’ve only been a smoker for 2 or 3 weeks, you can still experience withdrawal. Nicotine is that addicting and that powerful. Symptoms of withdrawal can be physical, mental and emotional. Physical symptoms include headache, fatigue, cough, loss of appetite, cravings, and constipation; while mental and emotional symptoms include lack of concentration, irritability, depression, and anxiety. Days 3 to 5 of the withdrawal stage are usually the worst, and while you may still experience some or all of the aforementioned symptoms they will typically start to taper off after a few weeks. It’s just a matter of being patient and also reporting your symptoms to your physician, as he or she may have other ways to help you relieve those symptoms or at least shift your focus.

Originally published at on September 28, 2018.

Dr. Ali Ghahary is a Family Physician in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Dr. Ali Ghahary is a Family Physician in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.