Heavy drinking and smoking accelerate cognitive decline, study says
According to a study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, excessive alcohol consumption along with smoking accelerate cognitive decline. It is already known that smoking and alcohol consumption may increase the risk of certain cancers (such as pancreatic cancer or oropharyngeal cancer), but now researchers at University College London have found that people who smoke and consume alcohol excessively have a 36% faster cognitive decline than those who consume moderate alcohol and smoking.
Usually excessive alcohol consumption is accompanied by excessive smoking and it should be said that the combined effect of these two addictions is more harmful than the individual effect. To reach this conclusion, the researchers investigated over 10-year period 4,635 men and 1,838 women (in total 6,473 persons) aged between 45 and 69 years. All participants were asked about cigarettes and alcohol consumption; in addition, to see the combined effect of these two on their health, the participants were assessed three times during the 10 years: cognitive verbal fluency, verbal short-term memory, mathematical thinking. The UCL researchers considered heavy alcohol drinking consumption of alcohol over recommended limit that is 14 units per week for women and more than 21 units per week for men.
The investigators found that, compared to non-smoking moderate drinkers, those who consumed alcohol and smoke in the same time had a cognitive decline by 36% faster. In addition, it was also found that cognitive decline among smokers was greater as the number of units of alcohol increased. Lead researcher Dr Gareth Hagger-Johnson said that the increasing burden associated with cognitive aging could be reduced if lifestyle factors could be changed. He also said that people should not consume alcohol in the belief that alcohol is a protective factor against cognitive decline.
Researchers urge smokers to quit the habit and avoid excessive alcohol consumption. The results of the study on cognitive decline should warn people to avoid combining these two unhealthy habits especially in midlife. “When we looked at people who were heavy-drinking smokers, we found that for every 10 years that they aged their brains aged the equivalent of 12 years”, researchers said.
Smoking and alcohol have a lot of harmful effects on health. For example, it has been shown that people who consume alcohol and smoke in the same time develop pancreatic cancer much earlier. The average age of diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is 72 years, but studies have shown that those who consume excessive alcohol and smoke develop cancer about 10 years earlier, that is at 62 years.