Based on preliminary results, the study found that seniors with high exposure to secondhand smoke were approximately 30 percent more likely to develop dementia than those who do not have the time life-time exposure to smoke. High exposure was defined as more than 30 years of exposure to secondhand smoke.
The study also showed that exposure to secondhand smoke resulted in a greater presence of dementia for people who had not been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease but who have detectable abnormalities of their carotid arteries, on the basis of carotid ultrasound, compared to those that underlie these abnormalities. These abnormalities included narrower carotid arteries and carotid artery walls thick, and serve as indicators of preclinical cardiovascular disease and risk factors for stroke. People behind these conditions and high lifetime exposure to secondhand smoke were nearly two and a half times more likely to develop dementia than those who have no opportunity, exposure to smoke and no sign of disease of the carotid artery.
"This is one of the first studies to examine the risk of dementia in people who have never smoked but were exposed to secondhand smoke," Haight said. "These results show that secondhand smoke is associated with an increased risk of dementia, even in people without known risk factors for dementia related to diagnosed cardiovascular disease."
The study used statistical methods investigators to assess the risk of exposure to secondhand smoke, regardless of its known effect on the clinical diagnosis of cardiovascular disease.
"The fact that there were more people in this study population who were not diagnosed, but had underlying cardiovascular disease compared to people who were diagnosed points to risks to health associated with lifetime exposure to tobacco smoke, second hand, a potentially wider segment of the elderly population, "said Haight.
Haight said the study results provide further evidence on the dangers of secondhand smoke and to provide additional support for policies aimed at reducing public exposure to tobacco smoke.
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