An internationally renowned dementia expert is calling for smokers to quit on World Alzheimer’s Day.
Bob Woods, Emeritus Professor of Clinical Psychology of Older People at Bangor University, has joined forces with Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Wales, to warn smokers of the links between smoking and Alzheimer’s Disease.
He said: “In the UK, it is thought 10% of cases of Alzheimer’s Disease may be attributable to smoking – that’s around 8,000 per annum. The probable mechanism is that smoking increases the risk of heart disease and blood supply problems. Other risk factors for these vascular problems also increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease – diabetes, midlife hypertension, midlife obesity and physical inactivity. These risk factors also increase the risk of developing the second most common form of dementia after Alzheimer’s, known as vascular dementia.”
He went on to say, however, that by giving up smoking the likelihood of ex-smokers developing dementia decreases, explaining: “Studies suggest that the risk for ex-smokers is reduced, and may even be no different from that of non-smokers.”
And, having spent 40 years researching dementia, Professor Woods who was Director of the Dementia Services Development Centre Wales, until his retirement last year, said he would urge smokers to break the habit: “At present there are no cures for dementia, and many of us will have seen loved ones developing the condition and experienced its impact on family and friends as well as on the person with the condition. We can all increase our brain health by our lifestyle choices and reducing the risk of dementia is an additional good reason for breaking the habit.”
According to a 2014 report on tobacco use and dementia published by the World Health Organisation, an estimated 14 per cent of Alzheimer’s Disease cases worldwide are attributable to smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke. The report states that supporting tobacco users to quit should be a top priority for the prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia.
Suzanne Cass is Chief Executive Officer of ASH Wales. She said: “We absolutely support the view that it is never too late to make changes to your life and repair some of the damage you’ve done.
“Giving up smoking can be difficult but there is plenty of support out there. You don’t need to do this alone and the benefits of a tobacco free life are enormous – not least a decreased risk of developing dementia, a debilitating condition for which there is no cure.”
Alzheimer’s Society’s Country Director for Wales, Sue Phelps, joined the call for smokers to give up cigarettes and adopt a healthier lifestyle:
“Alzheimer’s Society encourages stopping smoking, as this is thought to reduce the risk of developing dementia back down to the level of non-smokers. It is never too late to adopt healthier lifestyle choices and by avoiding second-hand smoke, people are also likely to help reduce their risk of developing the condition.”
“Two of the most common forms of dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease and vascular dementia, are linked to problems with the vascular system. It is known that smoking increases the risk of vascular problems, which may lead to strokes or smaller bleeds in the brain, which are both risk factors for dementia.”
Dr Sara Imarisio, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, added: “The toxic chemicals in cigarettes can increase oxidative stress and inflammation, which have both been linked to development of Alzheimer’s Disease. Smoking also increases the chance of developing other health conditions like type 2 diabetes, which in turn elevate the likelihood of dementia.
“Alongside not smoking, the best current evidence to keep your brain healthy as you age is to drink within the recommended guidelines, stay physically fit, eat a balanced diet, and keep your blood pressure and cholesterol levels in check.”
If you are a smoker and would like to quit, ASH Wales offers great tips on how to get started. Visit the ASH Wales website www.ash.wales to get friendly advice from other quitters as well as daily tips and motivation. Help Me Quit is run by NHS Wales and will help you to find the stop smoking service that best suits you. Contact them on 0808 278 6119 or visit www.helpmequit.wales