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Smokers 'have higher dementia risk', warns WHO

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Smokers have a 45% higher risk of developing dementia than non-smokers, experts have said.

In addition, the more a person smokes, the higher the risk, according to a new report from the World Health Organization (WHO) published in collaboration with Alzheimer’s Disease International.

“With no cure yet for dementia, we need more research to gain a better understanding about how lifestyle factors can increase risk”

Doug Brown

Even passive smoking could increase the risk, the report states. It also highlights that 14% of Alzheimer’s disease cases are potentially attributable to smoking.

Dr Shekhar Saxena, director of the Department for Mental Health and Substance Abuse at the WHO, said: “Since there is currently no cure for dementia, public health interventions need to focus on prevention by changing modifiable risk factors like smoking.”

“This research shows that a decrease in smoking now is likely to result in a substantial decrease in the burden of dementia in the years to come.”


Shekhar Saxena

Serge Gauthier, chair of Alzheimer’s Disease International’s medical scientific advisory panel, added: “The research also shows that quitting smoking later in life might be beneficial so encouraging and supporting current tobacco users to quit should be a priority.”

Responding to the report, Dr Doug Brown, director of research and development at the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “This shocking estimate that so many cases of Alzheimer’s may be linked to smoking surely means we must count the global burden of the condition alongside the millions of deaths we already know are caused by tobacco.

“With 44 million people worldwide living with dementia it is now time to rank the condition alongside others like cancer and heart disease when we talk about tackling smoking,” he said.

“With no cure yet for dementia, we need more research to gain a better understanding about how lifestyle factors can increase risk and a significant public health effort to attempt to reduce the number of future cases of the condition,” he added.

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