Smoking now linked to cases of dementia
A stark new warning has been issued to Irish smokers that they face a massively increased risk of developing dementia.
The Alzheimer Society of Ireland (ASI) and anti-smoking agency ASH Ireland say that while the link between tobacco and diseases such as cancer, stroke and heart disease are well-documented, smokers should be aware of new research that shows direct links between tobacco and the raised incidence of dementia
Statistics show 48,000 people are living with dementia in Ireland, a figure set to treble in a generation. Next year, 11 people a day will develop dementia here.
The Alzheimer Society estimates that the average annual cost to the State per person with dementia could be as high €40,500.
By 2041 there will be 132,000 cases, according to projections, and many of those cases will be among smokers.
Overall, research shows that smokers have a 50pc greater chance of developing dementia than those who have never smoked, but this decreases substantially when a smoker stops.
Smoking increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and stroke, which are also underlying risk factors for dementia. Specifically, smoking increases the presence of a dangerous amino acid in the blood that increases the risk of stroke and cognitive impairment.
Smoking also accelerates atherosclerosis - the build-up of fatty substances leading to a narrowing of the blood vessels in the heart and brain - that can deprive brain cells of oxygen.
A third danger from smoking is "oxidative stress", which arises from the body's inter- action with oxygen. Oxidative stress is separately implicated as a factor in Alzheimer's and has an impact on the body's ageing process.
The World Health Organisation estimates that 14pc of cases of Alzheimer's worldwide are potentially attributable to smoking.
Tina Leonard of the ASI said: "Current health promotion in Ireland ignores modifiable risk factors for dementia. The Department of Health's 'Tobacco Free Policy' highlights the associations between smoking and premature mortality, cancers and respiratory diseases, but not the established links between smoking and dementia."
Dr Ross Morgan of ASH Ireland said: "Public policies aimed at reducing smoking could play an important role in addressing the risk of dementia."