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In my last blog post I talked about the effect that smoking in general has on our memories.

Now it’s time to move on to the impact that passive smoking has on our brains, and those of our children.
And to look at the effect smoking has on those young adolescents and adults who actually take up smoking themselves.

Passive Smoking, Diabetes and Dementia risk

Passive smoking is associated with an increased risk for developing impaired glucose intolerance, a precursor for diabetes, which is itself, a risk factor for dementia.

A US study on 4500 subjects over a 15 year period, gave the following results in percentages those who developed impaired glucose tolerance.

22% of the smokers
17% of the passive smokers (ie living with a smoker)
14% of ex smokers
12% of non-smokers

In other words, the passive smoking group had a higher risk of developing impaired glucose tolerance even compared to the ex smokers.

And smokers themselves had almost twice the risk of non-smokers.

Another valid reason to give up the smokes.

We are witnessing an explosion in the number of people with obesity and diabetes, both major risk factors for impaired cognitive performance and dementia.

Why add to that risk by continuing to smoke?

Passive smoking, dementia and reduced academic performance.

Passive smoking;

• can lead to cancer in non-smokers.
• can lead to the development of heart disease in non-smokers.
• can lead to an increased risk of impaired glucose metabolism, a precursor for diabetes in non-smokers.

Heart disease and diabetes are associated with increased risk of dementia.

In the BMJ (British Medical Journal) of February 2009 it was stated that “second hand smoke (ie passive smoking) increases a person’s risk of dementia and other forms of cognitive impairment and also is associated with poorer cognitive performance in children and adolescents”

Good grief. If ever there was an incentive to give up smoking for the sake of your kids, surely this has to a big one!

The message is stark.

Passive smoking is linked to increasing your risk of dementia.

It also reduces academic performance in younger children and adolescents.

Dr. Mark Eisner for the University of California agreed in his statement that the evidence is emerging: parental smoking may impair a child’s cognitive development.

Prolonged exposure to passive smoking can lead to cardiovascular disease, increased risk of stroke and cognitive decline.

If I am repeating the message, it is because I think it is crucial to understand this.

Still in the US, a study by Leslie Jacobsen at Yale showed that adolescents who smoke showed inaccuracies and impairments of their working memory.

It was even suggested that teenagers who smoke are perhaps going to need additional educational support because of this.

Plus, it was the boys (who tend to start smoking earlier than girls) who were found to be most impaired in tests of selective and divided attention.

This was highlighted further by a study just published, by Prof Weiser of the Tel Aviv University Dept of Psychiatry and Sheba Medical Centre at Tel Hashomer Hospital.

The study looked at 20,000 young men enlisted in the Israeli army who were all healthy young adults aged between 18 and 21 years.

Around 28% smoked one or more cigarettes a day, 3% were ex smokers and 68% non-smokers.

They found that the average IQ for the non-smokers was 101
The average for the smoking group was 94
For those who smoked a packet or more a day they scored even lower at 90.

In an average population of healthy young men an IQ score would be expected to be between 84 and 116.

In his group socio-economic background was not a factor. These were all healthy young adults from a variety of backgrounds.

Plus, they were able to show that in twin brothers where one was a smoker and the other was not, the non-smoking twin on average registered a higher IQ

If we don’t want our kids to be dumbed down, then we seriously need to encourage them not to take up smoking in the first place as well as seeking to minimise any potential exposure to passive smoking.

As parents we all want the best for our kids and to see them grow and succeed in life.
Why would we knowingly diminish their ability to do well academically by either smoking ourselves or allowing them to smoke as teenagers?

If you are an adult who smokes, giving up will not only benefit your health, it will also benefit the health of your family in terms of protecting their brain.

Remember passive smoking is as deadly as smoking itself.

Yet another valid reason to give up the smokes.

Yul Brynner the actor, left us a number of years ago in 1985.
He died from lung cancer.

His message was clear and still as relevant as ever.

“Just don’t smoke.”

What action are you going to take to protect yourself and your family?

What decision are you going to take right now and commit to, in order to protect your brain health and that of your children in relation to smoking and passive smoking?

How can you keep your kids safe and discourage them from taking up smoking?

Just don’t smoke and keep your brain and your kids brains protected from passive smoking.

Dr Jenny Brockis

Dr Jenny Brockis is a medical practitioner and internationally board-certified lifestyle medicine physician, workplace health and wellbeing consultant, keynote speaker and best-selling author. You can now pre-order her new book ‘The Natural Advantage’ due for publication in October 2024.

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