SMOKING and high blood pressure over the age of 50 both lead to accelerated mental decline, research has shown.
Scientists analysed risk factor data for more than 8,000 older adults taking part in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing.
Tests of memory, planning and overall mental ability were carried out after four and eight years.
The study showed that smoking consistently reduced all three performance measures after four years.
High blood pressure and high risk of stroke were associated with lower scores for memory and overall mental ability after eight years.
Being overweight was linked to poor memory.
The findings appear in the journal Age and Ageing.
They indicate that future trials should focus on combinations of risk factors rather than individual causes of mental decline, say the researchers.
Lead scientist Dr Alex Dregan, from King’s College London, said: “We have identified a number of risk factors which could be associated with accelerated cognitive decline, all of which could be modifiable. This offers valuable knowledge for future prevention and treatment interventions.”