Smoking, Diabetes and the Brain

On the surface, it would seem as if smoking and diabetes would have little in common, aside from their harmful, long-term effects on human health. But according to a recent report, both diabetes and a chronic smoking habit can have a detrimental impact on memory.

The Bad Side of Calcium

Authored by a Netherlands-based research team, this report reviewed cognitive test results and brain scans for nearly 2,000 hospital patients. These subjects visited the hospital’s memory clinic over a six year timespan (2009 to 2015). The study focused primarily on seniors, as the average age of
the participants was 78. Other relevant factors involving the study
volunteers are shown below:
• 317 adults, or 16 percent of the participants, were diabetic

• Smokers accounted for nearly one in eight (12 percent) of the subjects
• The youngest volunteers were in their 40s, whereas the oldest was 96 years old
Upon analyzing their collection of data, the authors determined that roughly one in five (19 percent, or 380 patients) had developed abnormal calcium buildup in the brain. Specifically, these buildups (medically known as calcifications) were located in the hippocampus, a region of the brain that assists with both short and long term memory. This problem was especially pronounced among both diabetics and smokers; compared to nonsmokers and non-diabetics, these participants were 50 percent likelier to have hippocampus calcium deposits. It warrants mentioning that both
dementia and Alzheimer’s disease damage this crucial part of the brain

More Work to Do

Interestingly enough, the team did not find a connection between these deposits and decreased cognitive function. Lead study author Dr. Esther de Brouwer noted that “the hippocampus is an important area in the brain for memory storage, so we thought that calcifications in this area would be related with cognitive problems.” Furthermore, the authors caution that more research is necessary to conclusively link brain calcifications to deteriorating cognitive health.

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