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Study: Smoking being recognized as risk factor for dementia

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LONDON - The number of dementia cases around the world is expected to double in the next 20 years and smoking is increasingly being recognized as a risk factor.

Now, a new British study claims men who smoke appear to experience a more rapid cognitive decline than women.

Dr. Scott Bea did not take part in the study, but is a psychologist at Cleveland Clinic.

"We find that people that continue to smoke as they age, from middle-age into old age, have much greater rates of dementia, much more likely show changes in their ability to remember, to plan, to execute purposeful behaviors, then those that aren't smoking," Dr. Bea said.

Researchers at the University of College London, examined the association between smoking history and cognitive decline in the transition from midlife to old age.  Nearly 5,100 men and more than 2,100 women were included. 

The findings suggest an association between men who smoke and a more rapid cognitive decline.  Even men who quit 10 years prior were still at risk.  

Researchers say the link between smoking and cognitive decline may be underestimated. Dr. Bea says it's another reason to try to kick the habit. 

"We're trying to find answers for the brain changes that occur in dementia, with Alzheimer's- we're not there yet. There's a lot of work to do. We always look for prevention first, so giving up cigarettes and other forms of tobacco would be something smart that anybody can do," Bea said.

Complete findings for this study are in the journal "Archives of General Psychiatry." To read the full study, go to archpsyc.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/short/archgenpsychiatry.2011.2016 .

Copyright Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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