A new study conducted by researchers at Seoul National University Hospital in South Korea suggests that it does.
Researchers followed more than 46,000 men, aged 60 and over, from 2006 to 2013.
They found that men who had never smoked and those who had quit were less likely than current smokers to develop dementia during the study.
Compared to current smokers, men who had never smoked were 19% less likely to develop dementia in general. They were 18 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease in particular.
Compared to men who were still smoking, those who had quit smoking for four or more years were 14 percent less likely to develop dementia in general. They were 15 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease in particular.
These results are in addition to a growing body of research that suggests that smoking negatively affects brain health and memory later in life.
“The idea that smoking has an impact on your brain health and puts you at increased risk of cognitive decline and dementia is something we have seen before,” said Heather Snyder, Ph.D., Senior Director of Medical and Scientific Operations at the Alzheimer’s Association, Healthline.
For example, a meta-analysis of 19 Trusted Source studies has already shown that people who had never smoked before were less likely to develop dementia than those who were currently smoking.
Similarly, previous studies have also shown that quitting smoking can reduce the risk of cognitive decline later in life.
“So I think it underscores this message,” says Snyder, “that smoking has an impact on your brain health in the long term.”
According to the Alzheimer Association, avoiding tobacco smoke is one of the many steps people can take to reduce their risk of developing dementia later in life.
“If you don’t smoke yet, for the health of your brain, it’s probably not a good idea to start,” says Snyder, “and if you smoke, stopping this behaviour is beneficial.
It is also important to get enough sleep, follow a nutritious diet, socialize with others and stay physically and mentally active, Snyder suggested.
“Studies have shown that people who continue to learn new things – whether it’s taking classes at a local college, canasta or dancing in a ballroom – are beneficial,” she says.
“Physical activity also seems to be beneficial for brain health,” she continued. “Conversely, inactivity increases the risk of cognitive decline later in life.”
If you are currently smoking and want to get rid of this habit, consider making an appointment with your doctor to discuss quit strategies.
Your doctor may recommend over-the-counter medications or prescription drugs to reduce nicotine cravings.
They can also recommend individual, group or telephone counselling services to help you address smoking cessation challenges.