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Smoking linked to dementia but quitting now can significantly lower your risk

"After nine years their risk of developing dementia looked the same as those who were never smokers,” Dr. Jasmine Reese says.

TAMPA, Fla. — We all know smoking is bad for the lungs but the link to brain damage gets far less attention. 

“We know that smokers have a 30 percent increased risk of developing dementia and even 40 percent higher likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease,” explains Dr. Jasmine Reese, Adolescent Medicine Specialist, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital.

Studies are indicating good news, though, for people who are ready to quit.

According to the American Heart Association, quitting can help turn back the effects for improved brain and heart health.

“Part of the recent research that was really interesting to me is that, when they compared smokers to non-smokers, so somebody who had quit, after nine years their risk of developing dementia looked the same as those who were never smokers,” says Dr. Reese. 

That means the effects of smoking on the brain were basically erased.

“Certainly the longer you’ve been smoking, the more cigarettes you’ve smoked over time it is harder to quit but it doesn’t mean that it’s not going to have really good benefits for you,” explains Dr. Reese.

As vaping has become more popular in recent years, it’s important to understand its impacts. 

Dr. Reese says, “one vape cartridge or one pod is the equivalent of 20 cigarettes. So, if they’re completing one pod in a day, they just had a whole pack of cigarettes.” 

She says that the addictive process and a person’s dependence will intensify at a more rapid pace than smoking cigarettes. 

Dr. Reese explains that can impact brain development in younger users, leading to mood changes and problems with focus and concentration.

Dr. Reese says quitting cold turkey is what the majority of smokers try to do, but she says it’s also the least effective way. 

If you're looking to quit smoking, the American Heart Association offers several tools for help. You can find the tools here.

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