ISLAMABAD  - Researchers suggest that people exposed to environmental tobacco smoke are threatened by increasing risk of severe dementia syndromes.

Passive smoking, also known as `second-hand’ smoke, can cause neurological disease of dementia besides cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, according to the recent study conducted by the researchers from Anhui Medical University in China and King’s College London, Press tv reported.

The result reveals that some 10 percent of the group involved in severe dementia which was associated with the exposure level as well as duration of passive smoking, according to the study published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

“Avoiding exposure to ETS (environmental tobacco smoke) may reduce the risk of severe dementia syndromes,” said the study leader Dr Ruoling Chen, from King’s College while emphasizing “passive smoking should be considered an important risk factor for dementia syndromes.”

“The increased risk of severe dementia syndromes in those exposed to passive smoking is similar to increased risk of coronary heart disease,” Dr Chen added.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that about 80 percent of over one billion smokers across the world live in low-and middle-income countries, where the burden of tobacco-related disease and death hits the highest rate.

Common blood pressure drugs may lower risk of dementia

Common blood pressure drugs taken by million of people have been linked to a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease, researchers report.

It was found that people who had taken blood pressure drugs, particularly a class known as beta blockers, showed fewer changes in the brain linked to Alzheimer’s disease, The Daily Telegraph reported.

Findings of a new study were presented at the American Academy of Neurology Annual Meeting in San Diego. Researchers examined the brains of 774 men after they had died, 610 of whom had been treated for high blood pressure.

Around one in seven of those had been given only beta-blockers, 18 percent had received beta-blockers and another drug and the others had been given different drugs.

It was found that the men who had received beta-blockers as their only blood pressure medication had fewer abnormalities in their brains compared to those who had not been treated for their hypertension, or who had received other blood pressure medications.  Those who had been given beta-blockers in combination with other drugs also had fewer brain leisons and less shrinkage but not to the same extent at those who had used them alone.

In 2011, more than 30m prescriptions were dispensed for beta-blockers in England, showing that millions of patients have used the drugs.

Lead researcher Dr. Lon White, of the Pacific Health Research and Education Institute in Honolulu, said: “With the number of people with Alzheimer’s disease expected to grow significantly as our population ages, it is increasingly important to identify factors that could delay or prevent the disease.  “These results are exciting, especially since beta blockers are a common treatment for high blood pressure.”

Earlier research has shown that high blood pressure in middle age is a strong risk factor for dementia.

The number of people with dementia is expected to explode to 1.7m by 2050.  Dr. Simon Ridley, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “Hypertension is a known risk factor for Alzheimer’s and other causes of dementia, and keeping high blood pressure in check could be important for preventing these diseases.

“This study suggests a link between the use of beta blockers and fewer signs of dementia, but as the results of this study have yet to be published in full, it’s not clear what caused this link.

It is important to note that this study only looked at Japanese-American men, and these results may not be applicable to the wider population.

“While we can’t conclude from this study that beta blockers can prevent dementia, a better understanding of the links between high blood pressure and dementia could be crucial for developing new treatments or approaches to prevention.

“With 820,000 people affected by dementia in the UK, and that number increasing, we urgently need to find ways to prevent the diseases that cause it - that requires a massive investment in research.”