Shave ten years off your brain
It's happened to almost everyone.
Maybe you've found yourself staring at row after row of parked cars in a lot wondering where you had parked your own. Perhaps you missed a really important appointment. Or maybe you ran into an old friend on the street and somehow totally blanked on her name.
No matter the details, little forgetful moments like these are, in fact, so common that we've even come up with catchy names for them like "Senior Moments" and "Brain Hiccups."
But, the truth is, these small memory lapses can be disconcerting at best, and downright frightening at worst.
Let's face it, when you misplace your keys for the third time in a week it's hard to not wonder if it isn't an early warning sign of a bigger problem to come. And it's terribly easy to turn a forgotten carton of milk into the beginnings of a disastrous decline into dementia.
Where there's smoke there's memory loss
Now, what if I told you that if you're a guy and you smoke you should be worried. In fact, according to new research, you're likely to have a much more rapid decline in mental function than your non-smoking friends.
And we're not talking about a small difference here.
According to the study published in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry if you're a long-term smoker your brain may be taking a hit that's equivalent to ten years of aging. And that decline can show up as memory loss, an inability to connect your past experiences with things you're dealing with in the present, and an overall cognitive decline.
Meaning that, yes, those "Senior Moments" may indeed be serious.
Taking the fast road to mental decline
Researchers analyzed data for almost 6,000 men and over 2,100 women with an average age of 56.
They tested each participant's memory, math, verbal, and, vocabulary skills at the start of the study and then again two more times over the following decade. In addition, they assessed each volunteers' smoking habits over a 25-year period including their current smoking status as well as their past smoking history.
The research quickly revealed that middle-aged men who were smokers had a much faster mental decline than those men that never smoked. And, it turns out that the sooner you quit the greater your brain benefits.
Men who had just recently quit smoking still registered some cognitive decline in their more complex thinking skills. But guys who had kicked the habit ten years or more before testing didn't show any more decline than the guys who had never smoked.
So, in other words, the sooner you rid your life of tobacco the better chances you have of staving off those frightening "Brain Hiccups."
The researchers believe that if you drop the habit any negative effects that smoking had on your memory or thinking skills might simply wear off after ten years. Talk about an incentive to quit!
Smoking makes you sick regardless of sex
No one is totally sure why the same mental declines were not seen in the female smokers in the study. One theory...and perhaps the most realistic...is that women simply don't smoke as many cigarettes, or for as long a period of time as men do on average.
But, if you're a woman who smokes don't think you're off the hook.
The researchers admit that the relatively small sample size used in the study could have influenced the results. And besides, the fact still remains that smoking is a nasty habit that's already been linked to dementia, heart and lung diseases, and, of course, cancer...regardless of your gender.
The bottom line is that if you're a smoker it's time to quit. And if you're a guy who smokes the time to quit is...well...yesterday.
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About the author
Nationally acclaimed as America’s “Nutrition Physician,” Dr. Spreen has been helping people stay healthy and disease-free as a private doctor, published author, and noted researcher.
In addition to his role as a Senior Member of the prestigious Health Sciences Institute Advisory Panel in Baltimore, MD, Dr. Spreen also coaches diving at the international and Olympic levels. NorthStar Nutritionals is proud to have Dr. Spreen as our Chief Research Advisor.
Dr. Spreen also writes the Guide to Good Health.