Watch your memory go up in smoke
Cigarettes can rot your brain right out of your gourd -- but you don't have to be a smoker yourself to suffer the damage.
Just knowing one is enough.
You know how secondhand smoke can make you cough, wheeze, and smell like an ashtray. Now, a new study adds one more risk to the long and growing list: memory loss.
Nonsmokers who are regularly exposed to smoke for an average of 25 hours a week -- these are people who either live with smokers, or spend a lot of time with friends and colleagues who smoke -- did 20 percent worse on memory tests than non-smokers with no regular secondhand smoke exposure.
That's almost -- but not quite -- as bad as regular smokers, who did 30 percent worse on those same tests.
But that makes sense, right? Nonsmokers who breathe in secondhand smoke are almost -- but not quite -- inhaling all the same toxins as smokers, including a compound called NKK.
You can't see NKK, but it's lingering in that tobacco cloud -- and in tests on mice, even secondhand exposure to it caused the white blood cells in the central nervous system to turn on healthy cells, triggering the inflammation linked to brain disorders such as multiple sclerosis.
That would help explain why both smokers and nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke have a much higher risk of MS and other serious problems in the brain -- not to mention cancer, emphysema, and all the other usual suspects that come along for the ride when tobacco is driving.
Obviously, the advice here is common sense: If you smoke, quit. And if you don't smoke, avoid inhaling secondhand smoke.
Or better yet, help the smokers in your life to quit.
Dr. Mark Stengler