Smoking associated with faster cognitive decline in middle-aged men

The Los Angeles Times “Booster Shots” blog reports, “Middle-aged men who smoke suffered more rapid cognitive decline than peers who have never smoked or who have been ex-smokers for at least 10 years,” according to a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

On its website, ABC News explains, “Researchers from University College in London studied more than 5,000 men and 2,000 women from Britain’s long-running Whitehall II study, which has surveyed the health of thousands of British civil service employees.”

After examining “each participant’s performance on tests of memory, verbal skills and reasoning over a period of 10 years, beginning when the participants were about 56 years old,” researchers “found that men who smoked showed a greater decline in these mental functions than those who had never smoked.”

“But there was good news for people who had laid off cigarettes for at least a decade: Men who were long-term ex smokers did not have greater mental decline than men who never took up tobacco,” WebMD reports.

Still, HealthDay pointed out that “quitting didn’t necessarily help right away: Men who kicked the habit in the 10 years before their first assessment were still at risk of more mental decline, particularly in their so-called ‘executive’ functioning, which includes various complex mental processes involved in planning and achieving a particular goal.”

Nevertheless, “men who were long-term ex-smokers did not have faster decline.”

Notably, the study authors “found no link between smoking and declines in mental abilities in women. The reasons for this gender difference aren’t clear, but the fact that men tend to smoke more cigarettes than women may be one explanation, they suggested.”

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