Passive Smoke Boosts Dementia Risk
Living With Smoker for Decades Can More Than Double Risk
May 1, 2007 -- If your spouse still smokes, here’s a new reason to urge him
or her to quit.
A new study suggests that people who live with a smoker for more than 30
years are about 30% more likely to develop dementia than those who have never
lived with a smoker.
The situation is even worse for people who are already at increased risk for
dementia due to clogged arteries leading to the brain, says researcher Tad
Haight, MA, senior statistician at the University of California at
For such people, living with a smoker for more than 30 years appears to
raise dementia risk more than twofold compared with people who never lived with
a smoker and don’t have blocked brain arteries, he tells WebMD.
The study, presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting,
included 985 people aged 65 and older who had never smoked.
None had dementia or had suffered a heart attack or stroke or had blocked
leg arteries at the start of the study.
Of the total, 495 lived with a smoker for an average of 28 years.
Over the next seven years, 10% of the 985 people suffered a heart attack or
stroke or developed blockages or clots in their leg arteries. Fifteen percent
were diagnosed with dementia.
No Extra Dementia Screening Warranted
Ronald C. Petersen, MD, director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Center at the
Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., says that while the study showed a link
between passive smoke and dementia, it doesn’t prove that it actually caused
the memory disorder.
Petersen tells WebMD that people who have lived with a smoker shouldn’t rush
to their doctor to get tested for dementia.
“From a practical point of view, the thing to do is remove yourself from the
situation and follow a healthy lifestyle -- things we recommend in any case,”
But there’s no reason still not use it as ammunition to convince your spouse
to kick the habit.