PEOPLE who smoke over the age of 50 are more likely to suffer forgetfulness, poor organisation and slower thinking, according to new research.

Smoking not only causes lung disease and health problems, but is also linked with mental decline such as forgetfulness and slower thinking, new research has shown.  For those over 50, smoking can lead to accelerated decline in brain function, with those enjoying cigarettes showing poorer scores on memory tests than non-smokers.  Those who smoke consistently were found to have a decline in their planning skills and mental ability in tests over four years, with many finding they had trouble remembering common words. Others had difficulty organising daily tasks, or were shown to be becoming more forgetful.  Scientists working on the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (Elsa) studied 8,000 older adults to measure the effect of smoking.

By testing the same participants after four and eight years, they found the habit was linked with accelerated mental decline in those over 50 years old.

High blood pressure and high risk of stroke were also associated with lower scores for memory and overall mental ability after eight years. Being overweight was linked to poor memory.

The findings, published in the journal Age and Ageing, indicate that future trials should focus on combinations of risk factors rather than individual causes of mental decline, say the researchers.

Lead scientist Dr Alex Dregan, from King’s College London, said: ‘’Cognitive decline becomes more common with ageing and for an increasing number of people interferes with daily functioning and well-being.

‘’Some older people can become forgetful, have trouble remembering common words or have problems organising daily tasks more than others.

‘’We have identified a number of risk factors which could be associated with accelerated cognitive decline, all of which, could be modifiable. This offers valuable knowledge for future prevention and treatment interventions.’’  The results indicate that high blood pressure has a gradual effect on the brain over a long period, according to the scientists.                                               –TG