7 Shocking Effects of Smoking on the Brain

by Dr Antonio Howell, MD

in quit smoking, side effects

Dr. Howell

If lung cancer and heart disease are not enough to scare you about the dangers of quitting smoking, here’s another reason to stop smoking now – it rots your brain, literally. If you’ve been smoking for a long period of time, you are at a high risk not just of cancer and heart disease, but also mental decline.


Smoking has the most consistent effect on brain health

In a study published in the journal Age and Aging, researchers at Kings College London looked at the association between the risks of cardiovascular and stroke and cognitive decline in older adults. They examined several factors such as cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and body mass index (BMI) and smoking. Here’s what they found. Among the factors cited, smoking had the most consistent impact on brain health. Participants who had high cholesterol and blood pressure levels, as well as those who are obese performed worse on cognitive tasks but but the results varied more widely across the three objective tests.

Smoking damages vital mental functions

The same study, which involved 8,800 people over age 50 also found a significant association between smoking and damage in brain areas responsible for learning, memory and reasoning. According to the researchers, while mental decline naturally comes with aging, their findings suggest that smoking accelerates such process.


Smoking increases risk of dementia

For most people, the last thing they want to happen is to develop Alzheimer’s disease – the most common form of dementia characterized by severe memory loss. People with Alzheimer’s forget even the most basic life routines like eating, taking a bath and brushing teeth.

Smoking changes the brain chemistry

When a person smokes a cigarette, the toxins from tobacco reach the brain in ten seconds and the nicotine remains active for 20 to 40 minutes after the last puff. This addictive substance attaches itself to specialized receptor cells that control mood, memory and sense of well-being. This in turn changes the chemistry of the brain, affecting the person’s mood. Although nicotine provides temporary boost in mood, it creates lasting damage to brain cells.


Smoking raises risk of stroke

The chemicals from cigarette smoke block the carotid artery, cutting off the supply of blood to the brain. Lack of oxygen in the brain could trigger cerebral thrombosis, also called stroke. People who smoke are 1.5 times more likely to have stroke than those who don’t.

Smoking could lead to blood clot in the brain

Blood clotting is an important process that prevents excessive bleeding when a blood vessel is injured. Smoking raises the risk of unwanted blood clots in the brain that could disrupt blood flow. This may lead to heart attack, stroke, damage to vital organs, and worse – death.

Smoking makes a person dumb

Because of the destructive effects of smoking to the brain, it greatly interferes with cognitive function. Research has shown that smoking have harmful effects on memory, IQ, and problem-solving skills of individuals. Smoking is also linked to some other mental health problems including depression and schizophrenia.


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