Ask the BCAT Faculty: Quit Smoking Now and Lower Your Risk of Dementia
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I recently attended a presentation on the new ENRICH® program.  I was very much impressed with this unique approach to lowering the risk of dementia.  I understand that there are six brain-heathy behaviors that the program emphasizes, and that one of them pertains to smoking.  My older patients often ask me if smoking cessation matters given their age and life expectancy.  Can you comment on benefits of smoking cessation for older adults?  I guess I am looking for talking points to encourage them to quit.  Thank you!


Internal medicine physician, Maryland

BCAT Faculty Response

Thank you for your question Melanie.  There are a number of reasons why smoking is a risk factor for dementia. Generally speaking, the link between smoking, heart disease, and dementia is quite clear.  Smoking cessation for adults and older adults is a health priority, and an important step toward reducing dementia risk.  Unfortunately, many people, including smokers and their families, have a passive approach to smoking cessation in older adults.  They may say, why bother?  Hasn’t the damage been done?  You can improve your health and dementia risk when you stop smoking, even in advanced age and after decades of smoking. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has put together a very useful publication called, Within 20 Minutes of QuittingHere are some talking points for your patients the CDC reports, and they may surprise you.

Within 20 minutes after you smoke that last cigarette, your body begins a series of changes that continue for years. Here are some of them:

  • 20 minutes after quitting, your heart rate drops.
  • 12 hours after quitting, carbon monoxide levels in your blood drop to normal.
  • 2 weeks to 3 months after quitting, your heart attack risk begins to drop, and your lung function begins to improve.
  • 1 to 9 months after quitting, your coughing and shortness of breath decrease.
  • 1 year after quitting, your added risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker’s.
  • 15 years after quitting, your risk of coronary heart disease is back to that of a nonsmoker’s.

We hope you find this information helpful.  As a reminder, the ENRICH® program website should be up and running by January 23, 2017!  Check it out at to find out how to lower dementia risk.

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