Americans have long known that smoking is a dangerous habit that can carry the risk of cancer and higher life and health insurance rates. However, researchers are continuing to identify other risks that heavy tobacco use can bring as well.
For example, a study from Kaiser Permanente recently found that individuals who smoke heavily during their midlife years have a 157 percent higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and a 172 percent higher risk of contracting vascular dementia.
"This study shows that the brain is not immune to the long-term consequences of heavy smoking," said the study's principal investigator, Dr. Rachel Whitmer. "We know smoking compromises the vascular system by affecting blood pressure and elevates blood clotting factors, and we know vascular health plays a role in risk of Alzheimer’s disease."
The researchers particularly focused on individuals who had smoked more than two packs of cigarettes per day.
From an insurance standpoint, tobacco can contribute to chronic medical conditions that drive up health and life insurance costs. These conditions include heart disease and emphysema. Those who recover from a cancer diagnosis or stroke will also find their insurance costs likely to rise significantly.