A shocking new study conducted by China’s Anhui Medical University and researchers from U.S. and U.K. universities was recently published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. According to the research, it is now believed that exposure to secondhand smoke can significantly increase your risk of developing severe dementia.
Secondhand smoke is already known to be dangerous, causing an increase in the risk for developing conditions such as lung cancer or heart disease. These latest findings show that breathing secondhand smoke can increase your risk of severe cognitive impairment as well. This study is the first one to look directly at the connection between the two.
Details of the Study
From 2001 through 2003, researchers questioned a total of 5,921 people who were all over the age of 60. As China has the highest number of dementia patients in the world, the participants all lived in the Chinese communities of Anhui, Guangdong, Heilongjiang, Shanghai and Shanxi. While some of the communities are urban cities, others are rural areas with open fields and plenty of fresh air.
Researchers assessed each participant’s symptoms of dementia, determining exactly how much the condition affected their cognitive abilities. They then conducted follow up interviews with each participant in 2007 and 2008, evaluating their dementia symptoms, level of exposure to secondhand smoke and their own smoking habits.
Results of the Study
Researchers found that 10 percent of the participants showed severe signs and symptoms of dementia at the end of the study. While they found that having dementia did not increase the chances of being exposed to secondhand smoke, they did find that greater secondhand smoke exposure increased the risk of dementia.
While it is not clear exactly how the smoke affects the brain of seniors suffering from dementia, it is clear that the inhalation does cause damage. Researchers believe that the effects begin taking place rather quickly after dementia develops, so early prevention can make a big difference.
Experts encourage all seniors to be aware of their surroundings and avoid exposure to secondhand smoke at all times. For those seniors who are already diagnosed with dementia, caregivers should take steps to ensure they are not exposed to the dangerous secondhand fumes of tobacco smoke.