Highlight link of smoking to Alzheimer's, urge experts
More public health warning messages are needed to alert people to the strong association between smoking and dementia risk, specialists have warned.
The links between smoking and dementia are being highlighted to mark World Alzheimer's Day today.
Smoking can double the risk of dementia, said the Alzheimer's Society of Ireland.
There are current 48,000 people living with dementia in Ireland.
The organisation estimates the average annual cost per person with dementia at €40,500.
The Alzheimer's Society's director of advocacy, Tina Leonard, said: "However, dementia is not an inevitable part of ageing and while not all cases are preventable, there is a lot that can be done to reduce risk, one of which is reducing smoking.
"Overall, research shows that smokers have a 50pc greater chance of developing dementia than those who have never smoked, but this decreases substantially upon stopping smoking."
She said smoking increased the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and stroke, which are also underlying risk factors for dementia.
Smoking accelerates atherosclerosis, the build-up of fatty substances leading to a narrowing of the blood vessels in the heart and brain. This can deprive brain cells of oxygen.
It can also cause oxidative stress, which is implicated as a causal factor in Alzheimer's disease and has an impact on the body's ageing process.
The World Health Organisation estimates that 14pc of cases of Alzheimer's disease worldwide are potentially attributable to smoking.
"On World Alzheimer's Day, we are calling for dementia prevention to be integrated into national public health programmes now alongside other major non-communicable diseases (NCDs) as we fight the growing prevalence of this condition," said Ms Leonard.
The Department of Health's Tobacco Free Policy highlights the associations between smoking and premature mortality, cancers and respiratory diseases, but not the link to dementia.