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AAN: Secondhand Smoke Linked to Dementia Risk

Greatest risk seen in those with over 30 years of exposure and underlying carotid artery disease

WEDNESDAY, May 2 (HealthDay News) -- Patients with high lifetime exposure to secondhand smoke may have an increased risk of developing dementia, especially if they have underlying carotid artery disease, according to research presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Boston.

Thaddeus Haight, of the University of California at Berkeley, and colleagues studied 3,602 subjects aged 65 and older, including 985 never-smokers without diagnosed cardiovascular disease or dementia, who were enrolled in the Cardiovascular Health Study. They identified 495 subjects who had a mean 27.9 years of secondhand smoke exposure.

Over a six-year period, the researchers found that subjects with more than 30 years of secondhand smoke exposure were 31 percent more likely to develop dementia than those with no lifetime secondhand smoke exposure. They also found that subjects who had high lifetime exposure to secondhand smoke and detectable carotid-artery abnormalities were 2.38 times more likely to develop dementia as those with no secondhand smoke exposure and no underlying carotid artery disease.

"The fact that there were more people in this study population who were not diagnosed, but had underlying cardiovascular disease compared to people who were diagnosed points to the health risks associated with lifetime exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke in a potentially wider segment of the elderly population," Haight said in a statement.

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