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Medical English / By Tom Secrest

Remember to Stop Smoking, While You Still Can

It seems like there is no end of good reasons to stop smoking. Most smokers are aware of the cardiovascular risks that take the form of heart attacks and coronary artery disease and the respiratory risks that take the form of lung cancer, emphysema and COPD. Why people continue to smoke despite these well established medical risks remains a subject of great debate. Certainly we can’t rule out the incredibly addictive potential of the chemicals contained in cigarettes. Additionally, in a world of stress and depression, cigarettes may offer smokers a method of dealing with the repeated psychological traumas that most of us are subjected to on a daily basis. It is also possible that advances in medical science have caused smokers to become ambivalent and believe that their doctor can treat the health problems linked to smoking. Even when it comes to cancer, people may feel that medicine can save them, and perhaps, in many cases, it can.

While advances in medicine have taken the fear out of many diseases, there is one disease that still strikes fear into almost everyone; Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Everyone seems to be aware that science and medicine have no cure and virtually no meaningful treatment for this particular disease. People also know that AD does not kill you outright, it slowly steals your mind, your memories, your family, your friends, and your essence; then much, much later it steals your vitality and the last of your life. It is as though your body holds on, in a fruitless hope that your mind will someday return; of course it never does. If there is any mercy in AD and other forms of dementia, it is that the person with the condition is often oblivious to their gradual deterioration. In the early stages they may notice that they are becoming more forgetful, but as the disease progresses, it becomes the job of family and friends to provide the intensive care needed for someone who has forgotten the world and all those in it.

By this point you may be asking, what has this got to do with smokers? A recent study, published in the Oct. 25th issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, a study which used an enormous cohort of patients (over 21,000) with over a decade of follow up (1994 - 2008), has revealed that those who smoke, particularly those who smoke heavily, during their midlife years are more than twice as likely to come down with Alzheimer’s or vascular dementia than non-smokers. Almost everyone over 50 has felt the warm breath of AD on the back of their neck. Every time we forget where we put out keys, or an appointment slips our mind, we can’t help but wonder if that’s the beginning. The disease seems to stalk all of us, and whether you come down with it or not, often appears as random as a flip of a coin. This new study indicates that perhaps it is less random than we thought and that midlife smoking doubles the chance of that coin coming down wrong-side-up.

If you are in your midlife years, and you smoke, then that coin has already been flipped and about all you can do wait 20 years to see how it lands. However, if you are young, this study offers you another powerful reason to stop smoking now! A reason to stop before the years slip by and you have smoked deep into your midlife years; a reason to stop before the odds of AD or vascular dementia have been stacked against you.

We all know that smoking is a gamble, this study is just one of many that reminds us that the odds are not in our favor and the house is most likely to win. Under these circumstances, smoking becomes a game best not played.

Live long and well.


  • seem like – vypadat jako (1. p.)
  • be aware of – být si vědomý (2. p.); být si vědom (2. p.); uvědomovat si; uvědomit si
  • despite – navzdory
  • incredibly – neuvěřitelně
  • meaningful – smysluplný, významný
  • outright – úplně, přímo
  • mercy – milosrdenství. soucit
  • oblivious – zapomnětlivý, oblivious to – nehledící na
  • appointment slip – posun objednání
  • circumstances – okolnosti (pl.)


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