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How smoking and second-hand smoke affect your memory

The seeming inability to remember anyone’s name or forgetting a task the moment after you’ve decided it needs performing are among the frustrating, if familiar, daily signs of aging. Memory loss isn’t just associated with those dreaded ‘senior moments’ however.

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Secondhand smoke, cigarettes

Masterfile

The seeming inability to remember anyone’s name or forgetting a task the moment after you’ve decided it needs performing are among the frustrating, if familiar, daily signs of aging. Memory loss isn’t just associated with those dreaded ‘senior moments’ however. Ask any women in the throes of perimenopause (the earliest stages of menopause) if remembering things is a problem, and she will have probably forgotten the question before formulating the answer. 

Struggling to recall people and events can also fall victim to lifestyle choices. Alcohol and drug use, stress, fatigue, disruption of routine or habit and runaway emotions may affect the way we store and subsequently retrieve information. According to an article in the Daily Mail, it seems you can add second-hand smoke to the list of things that may cause you to forget your own phone number.  

Researchers at the U.K.’s Northumbria University recruited the participation of study subjects who either lived or fraternized regularly with smokers and who were exposed to second-hand smoke for at least 25 hours per week over an average period of four-and-a-half years. 

Their responses to certain controlled circumstances were compared to the reactions of both smokers and nonsmokers who had not been similarly exposed to second-hand smoke in any significant way. Results of the study suggested that repeated, regular exposure to second-hand smoke over time impaired memory as nonsmoking participants “forgot” almost 20 percent more frequently than their unexposed counterparts. 

The verdict is even worse for smokers, whose memories showed a 30 percent deficit when compared to those who did not smoke and who also limited their exposure to second-hand smoke. 

Next time someone near and dear settles down next to you, lighter in hand and poses the question, maybe you should tell them that yes, you do mind if they smoke — but do it fast, before you forget.

Are you regularly subjected to second-hand smoke? Find out how vitamin B12 may help to improve your memory function.