Does Alcohol and Cigarettes Cause Early Alzheimer’s

With all that is happening in the world these days, it seems that people are dealing with more daily stress than ever before.  Unfortunately, some individuals turn to unhealthy methods to reduce stress like smoking and drinking.  While research has already determined a number of health concerns for combined smoking and heavy drinking, a new study recently published in the British Journal of Psychiatry suggests that this combination is associated with a quicker decline in cognitive function of 36 percent.


The study examined almost 6,500 adults from 45 to 69 years of age over a period of ten years.  The subjects were surveyed about alcohol consumption and smoking habits, and they were tested three times during the study period for cognitive function.  Tests were given for verbal fluency, short-term verbal memory and verbal and math reasoning.


Testing showed that the brains of smokers who were also heavy drinkers aged 12 years for every ten years that passed.  Also, as the amount of alcohol consumed increased, so did decline in brain function, according to the research team from University College London.  It was concluded that people should not combine these two unhealthy behaviors, especially after reaching midlife.  The lead researcher, Dr. Gareth Hagger-Johnson stated, “Healthy behaviors in midlife may prevent cognitive decline into early old age."


Currently, roughly 5 million people within the United States are afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease, an incurable and progressive condition that reduces brain function.  In 2008, it was found that people who smoke at least a pack of cigarettes daily may develop Alzheimer’s disease earlier than people who don’t smoke.  Add heavy drinking to the mix, and the risk is further increased.


The study looked at 938 subjects who were 60 years of age or older.  Each was afflicted with possible or probable Alzheimer’s disease.  Family members were surveyed about the alcohol use and smoking behavior of the patient.  Smoking one or more packs of cigarettes daily was defined as heavy smoking. The consumption of more than two drinks per day was defined as heavy drinking.  The participants were also divided according to whether or not they were carriers of the apolipoprotein E-4 gene variant which is known to increase risks for Alzheimer’s disease.


Results of the study showed that heavy drinkers, on average, developed Alzheimer’s disease 4.8 years sooner than patients who were not heavy drinkers.  Heavy smokers were afflicted on average 2.3 years sooner than lighter smokers or non-smokers.  Those who carried the gene variant developed the disease 3 years sooner, and people with all three risk factors acquired the disease 8.5 years sooner than individuals with no risk factors.


While the combination of heavy smoking and drinking seems to be particularly detrimental for Alzheimer’s disease, these results also warn that the individual behaviors are detrimental.  Lead researcher Ranjan Duara, MD, of the Wien Center for Alzheimer's Disease at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, Florida concluded, "If we can reduce or eliminate heavy smoking and drinking, we could substantially delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease for people and reduce the number of people who have Alzheimer's at any point in time."

 

With all that is happening in the world these days, it seems that people are dealing with more daily stress than ever before.  Unfortunately, some individuals turn to unhealthy methods to reduce stress like smoking and drinking.  While research has already determined a number of health concerns for combined smoking and heavy drinking, a new study recently published in the British Journal of Psychiatry suggests that this combination is associated with a quicker decline in cognitive function of 36 percent.
The study examined almost 6,500 adults from 45 to 69 years of age over a period of ten years.  The subjects were surveyed about alcohol consumption and smoking habits, and they were tested three times during the study period for cognitive function.  Tests were given for verbal fluency, short-term verbal memory and verbal and math reasoning.


Testing showed that the brains of smokers who were also heavy drinkers aged 12 years for every ten years that passed.  Also, as the amount of alcohol consumed increased, so did decline in brain function, according to the research team from University College London.  It was concluded that people should not combine these two unhealthy behaviors, especially after reaching midlife.  The lead researcher, Dr. Gareth Hagger-Johnson stated, “Healthy behaviors in midlife may prevent cognitive decline into early old age."


Currently, roughly 5 million people within the United States are afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease, an incurable and progressive condition that reduces brain function.  In 2008, it was found that people who smoke at least a pack of cigarettes daily may develop Alzheimer’s disease earlier than people who don’t smoke.  Add heavy drinking to the mix, and the risk is further increased.


The study looked at 938 subjects who were 60 years of age or older.  Each was afflicted with possible or probable Alzheimer’s disease.  Family members were surveyed about the alcohol use and smoking behavior of the patient.  Smoking one or more packs of cigarettes daily was defined as heavy smoking. The consumption of more than two drinks per day was defined as heavy drinking.  The participants were also divided according to whether or not they were carriers of the apolipoprotein E-4 gene variant which is known to increase risks for Alzheimer’s disease.


Results of the study showed that heavy drinkers, on average, developed Alzheimer’s disease 4.8 years sooner than patients who were not heavy drinkers.  Heavy smokers were afflicted on average 2.3 years sooner than lighter smokers or non-smokers.  Those who carried the gene variant developed the disease 3 years sooner, and people with all three risk factors acquired the disease 8.5 years sooner than individuals with no risk factors.


While the combination of heavy smoking and drinking seems to be particularly detrimental for Alzheimer’s disease, these results also warn that the individual behaviors are detrimental.  Lead researcher Ranjan Duara, MD, of the Wien Center for Alzheimer's Disease at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, Florida concluded, "If we can reduce or eliminate heavy smoking and drinking, we could substantially delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease for people and reduce the number of people who have Alzheimer's at any point in time."

 

Sources:
http://www.newsmaxhealth.com/Health-News/smoking-drinking-mental-decline/2013/07/11/id/514643?s=al&promo_code=14286-1
http://www.webmd.com/alzheimers/news/20080416/drinking-smoking-up-early-alzheimers

http://www.newsmaxhealth.com/Health-News/smoking-drinking-mental-decline/2013/07/11/id/514643?s=al&promo_code=14286-1
http://www.webmd.com/alzheimers/news/20080416/drinking-smoking-up-early-alzheimers

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