Smoking makes stupid

26. August 2008

Are smokers deaf and dumb of they can't stop despite knowing about the risks for the health? The reverse seems to come closer to the truth: Smoking itself damages ears and brain in the long run. To avoid an early decay it is always worth it to stop the vice even in a mellow age.

For several years every cigarette box announces quietly but clearly "Smoking can kill you". Everybody knows about the higher risks like cancer, lung-, heart and vascular diseases. But this knowledge does not necessarily help those facing a nicotine addiction immediately to stop smoking and get healthy. But renunciation is what’s needed to get around developing early signs of senescence already in a middle age – as the scientist Séverine Sabia at the research institute INSERM in Villejuif, France explains.

Logics suffer most

The researcher recently submitted the results of a prospective cohort study which was published in the professional journal Archives of Internal Medicine. The study was based on data of the Whitehall-II-study with more than 10,000 federal employees of the administrative district of London. The participants in the age between 35 and 55 were questioned in a primary study phase (1985-1988) regarding their smoking habits. A repeated questioning years later in the fifth study phase (1997-1999) and additional cognitive tests showed that smokers compared to non-smokers lost some of their mental performance ability. Main issues were memory, word finding and logic. Ex-smokers who decided to quit during the first study phase showed clearly better results than participants who continued smoking. Even more clearly were those differences during the seventh study phase (2002-2004).
The test results back up that more smokers than non-smokers were no longer available for following checkups. This has two reasons: Firstly many smokers did not want to be examined again and secondly smokers had a higher death risk. But the results also show that to quit smoking is worth it even in one’s mellow years, says Sabia. Although socio-economic factors and the general health habits play a role in the results, smokers generally came off worse. Due to the loss of smoking participants during the study the scientist fears an even higher influence of smoking than the test results could prove.

Deaf in both ears

The evident warning sentences on each cigarette box make unforeseen sense as far as smoking does not only let your mental abilities go up in smoke earlier but also your ability of hearing. A study by Erik Fransen at the Antwerpen University suggests this conclusion. More than 4,000 men and women in the age between 53 and 67 participated in a hearing test and answered questions about their life style and working conditions. According to this, not just exposure to noise is connected to a significant loss of hearing higher frequencies. Also smoking increases the risk of limited hearing. Here the correlation between nicotine consumption and hearing loss depend on the dose, also when cardiovascular diseases were taken into account. The online version of the study in the Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology says also: In addition an increased Body-Mass-Index (BMI) is bad for hearing while moderate consumption of alcohol showed an inverse relation to loss of hearing.
Actually the new results regarding the known long-term effects do not seem to come as a great surprise. Circulatory disorders due to vasoconstrictions and arteriosclerosis most likely can damage and prematurely age any organ. According to the latest results some smokers have at least one hope left: They might not be able to understand certain health consequences in the double meaning of the word.

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