Smoking is well known to increase the risk of a variety of illnesses, from cancer to stroke to lung diseases. Now a new large study has found a link between smoking and dementia, especially for one group.
A team from the Translational Genomics Research Institute, (TGen) a City of Hope affiliate, analyzed data from more than 70,000 people worldwide to see what impacts smoking and cardiovascular disease have on cognitive function. They found that both impede the ability to learn and memorize, with smoking causing more issues in women and cardiovascular disease causing more issues in men. The findings were recently published in the journal Scientific Reports.
Dr. Matt Huentelman, senior author and TGen Professor of Neurogenomics, says, “These results suggest that smoking and cardiovascular disease impact verbal learning and memory throughout adulthood, starting as early as age 18. Smoking is associated with decreased learning and memory function in women, while cardiovascular is associated with decreased learning and memory function in men.”
The data was gathered through TGen’s online cognitive test called MindCrowd. That’s open to the public and seeks to better understand how genetics play a role in the brain function of healthy people so that knowledge can be applied to those with brain disorders. The goal is to get one million people to take part before narrowing down participants to a more focused, second phase of the study.
The participants included in the data set for this current study were from a broad range of adults aged 18 to 85. Researchers explained that allowed them to see broad trends about the different impacts on men and women, but it’s not yet known why they exist. They say it may mean that biological sex should be considered in studies about the connection between heart and cognitive health.
Dr. Brian Tiep, City of Hope director of pulmonary rehabilitation and smoking cessation, says, “This study points out some unpredicted but important differences between the sexes relating to cognitive decline. The impact on mental acuity seems progressive over time — some more rapid than others. Living habits related to diet, exercise and smoking certainly are consequential and may differ between men and women.”
Researchers say that there hasn’t been a lot of study to see how cardiovascular disease affects younger adults, but learning about how it’s linked with cognitive health could lead to possible treatments and interventions. They also note that the findings further illustrate the importance of keeping your heart in good shape and avoiding smoking.
To learn more about the MindCrowd project, visit its website.