After smoking for a decade, a middle-aged cigarette smoker is two to three times more likely to die early than a similarly aged person who has never smoked.
Smoking has long been known to damage the body and increase the risk of many cancers, lung and cardiovascular problems, pregnancy complications, and cataracts. However, few people know about its links to the brain. Recent studies have found that smoking doesn’t only affect the physical body, but can also seep its way into the confines of the mind.
Smoking Disrupts Memory and Cognition
Cigarettes contain over 4,000 chemicals – about 50 of which are inherently toxic. For example, carbon monoxide from car exhaust, butane in lighter fluid, and methanol from rocket fuel can all be found in one single cigarette. A build-up of these chemicals has been linked to a decrease in working and prospective memory as well as executive functions of the brain. According to a study at Northumbria University, habitual smoking had a deleterious impact on the memory needed to complete everyday tasks such as taking medications on time, planning tasks, and ignoring distractions throughout the day.
Smoking is Directly Linked to Brain Damage
Smoking doesn’t only limit memory, but can also damage crucial areas of the brain. In a study of 500 smokers, former smokers, and non-smokers, it was found that current and former smokers had a thinner cortex than non-smokers. The cortex is responsible for significant thought processes such as memory, language, and perception. Another study published in the Journal of Neurochemistry also showed that smoking has a direct link to further brain damage. This study found that a compound prevalent in tobacco known as NNK provokes white blood cells in the central nervous system to attack healthy cells. The attack then leads to severe neurological damage and causes neuroinflammation and brain injury.
Quitting Smoking Can Reverse the Effects on the Brain
Researchers at McGill University in Montreal have found that if a smoker is able to successfully quit smoking, he or she could reverse the effects of brain damage. Stopping smoking can help thicken the cortex and lead to partial brain restoration. Although it won’t restore the brain to that of a non-smoker, cessation of smoking can drastically improve everyday brain function, cognition, and memory.
Smoking has been scientifically linked to brain damage and poor memory. However, it’s never too late to restore the brain. By quitting the habit, you can gain back your brain.