Scientists from the Uniformed Services University (USU), Emory University and the University of Vermont have found that cigarette smoking is linked to increased lesions in the brain’s white matter, called white matter hyperintensities. White matter hyperintensities, detected by MRI scan, are associated with cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. These findings may help explain the link between smoking and increased rates of dementia and other forms of cognitive decline.
The study, “Associations of cigarette smoking with gray and white matter in the UK Biobank” was published online in the journal, Neuropsychopharmacology, https://rdcu.be/b1jPS
In June 2019, the Surgeons General of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and United States, released an open letter stating that tobacco use is a threat to the health and fitness of U.S. military forces and compromises readiness. This burden also extends to care provided by the Veterans Health Administration, which spends more than $2.5 billion annually on smoking-related care. In response, Dr. Joshua Gray, assistant professor of Medical and Clinical Psychology and Neuroscience at USU, and colleagues, examined the association between cigarette smoking and brain structure. Cigarette smoking is associated with increased risk for myriad health consequences including increased risk for neuropsychiatric conditions, but research on the link between smoking and brain structure is limited.
Their study was the largest of its kind, including MRI brain scans from more than 17,000 individuals from the UK Biobank, a large cohort of volunteers from across the United Kingdom. They found that smoking was associated with smaller total gray and white matter volume, increased white matter lesions, and variation in specific gray matter regions and white matter tracts. By controlling for important variables that often co-occur with smoking, such as alcohol use, this study identified distinct associations between smoking and brain structure, highlighting potential mechanisms of risk for common neuropsychiatric consequences of smoking such as depression and dementia.
“Cigarette smoking is known to elevate risk for neuropsychiatric conditions such as depression and dementia. We found that smoking is associated with multiple aspects of brain structure, in particular with increased white matter lesions. White matter lesions are linked to many of the same neuropsychiatric diseases as smoking,” said Gray. “Although further research is needed to understand to what extent smoking is a cause or consequence of these aspects of brain structure, our findings suggest a mechanism that links smoking to increased risk for dementia, depression, and other brain diseases.”
Unity Consortium is thrilled to welcome newest member, Ethan Lindenberger, a 19-year oldAmerican activist known for his opposition to vaccine misinformation efforts. Ethan will be featured in a number of resources as part of Unity’s Voice of AYA (Adolescents and Young Adults) campaign.
Ethan grew up being told that vaccines cause
autism, brain damage, and do not benefit the health and safety of
society despite the fact such opinions have been debunked numerous times
by the scientific community. Through his own research, and relying on
scientific evidence, he learned that vaccinations are proven to be a
medical miracle, stopping the spread of numerous diseases and therefore
saving countless lives. Ethan was dismayed that stories often spread
through social media based on skepticism and falsities and were putting
lives at danger.
“We all need to follow the CDC’s recommendations
and be protected from all vaccine-preventable diseases,” noted
Lindenberger. “I felt a connection with Unity and jumped at the
opportunity to become a member because they understand the value of teen
and young adult involvement and our ability to be proactive and make
the best decisions for ourselves based on decades of research.”
goal of the campaign is to encourage young adults and teens to get
up-to-date with recommended vaccinations and to teach them how to spot
vaccine-related misinformation on the internet. With new outbreaks in
diseases, such as the measles epidemics that have hit multiple states in
the US, it’s important to spread the word about the importance of
vaccinations. A Unity survey conducted by Harris poll found that 4 in
10 parents and nearly 6 in 10 teens believe teens should only see a
doctor for an illness, which likely reduces opportunities for physicians
to discuss preventive health measures, such as vaccination. Similarly,
the survey showed that 1 in 4 parents and teens believe that vaccines
are for babies and not as important for teens.
focus on educating teens, young adults and parents with evidence based
vaccine information. It is done in a way that is grounded in science and
with respect to his generation so that teens and young adults feel
empowered to make decisions for themselves.
Outcome Health, a
technology company providing health education at the moment of care,
partnered with Unity to produce video spots featuring Ethan. Dr. Laura
Offutt a physician and teen health advocate is also featured in the
spots as an expert source. Since 2018, Outcome Health has delivered
Unity’s vaccination and preventative healthcare messages across its
nationwide point-of-care platform; this is the first time the
organizations have collaborated on a joint video campaign. Outcome
Health will run the videos on their screens in tens of thousands of
doctors’ offices across the country. Ethan will also post a number of
blogs about AYA vaccination over the coming months.
adolescents and young adults in the U.S. are not fully vaccinated and
not even aware that they’re missing recommended vaccines,” said Judy
Klein, President of Unity Consortium. “We are working with Ethan to
amplify his voice. He is all about galvanizing teens to do their
homework on the power of vaccination to protect themselves against
preventable diseases, and the imperative of being caught up on all
missing immunizations. Outcome Health is a valued and exceptional
partner in broadly disseminating this message.”
developed a first-of-its-kind campaign (VAX@16) emphasizing the
16-year-old well-visit and the vaccines that can help protect teens as
they head into adulthood. Unity’s VAX@16 campaign aims to increase
awareness among parents, teens, and health care providers of the
vaccinations recommended for 16-year-olds, including Meningococcal ACWY
(MenACWY), Meningococcal B (MenB), and flu (seasonally).
commented, “We each have the power to protect ourselves from serious and
potentially dangerous illnesses like meningitis and the measles. We
grew up learning to wear a helmet when we rode a bike in case we fall and to wear a seat belt in casewe are in an accident. What about getting a vaccine in casewe are exposed to a lethal illness?”
The Voices of AYA campaign featuring Ethan Lindenberger resourcesare available on Unity’s website and include videos that feature Ethan and Dr. Laura Offutt, Lead for Unity’s Teen Advisory Council.
About Unity Consortium
Consortium is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that brings together
diverse groups that share a common and passionate interest in
maintaining life-long health, with a focus on adolescent and young adult
preventive healthcare and immunization.Unity members and liaisons
represent professional/trade organizations, coalitions/educational
organizations, public health, providers, technology and communications
organizations, and vaccine manufacturers.