Heavy Drinking and Smoking Leads to Earlier Alzheimer’s Development

Drinking and smoking in high doses leads to an earlier onset of Alzheimer’s disease, new research has shown. Compared to people who did not smoke or drink in excess, heavy drinkers and smokers developed Alzheimer’s nearly five years faster, and had a much higher occurrence of the disease as well.

938 individuals of 60 years or older, all with diagnosed Alzheimer’s, or at some stage of development of the disease, were looked at in the study. Family members were surveyed to determine the level of drinking and smoking consumption of the test subjects. “Seven percent of the study participants had a history of heavy drinking, which was defined as more than two drinks per day. Twenty percent had a history of heavy smoking, which was defined as smoking one pack of cigarettes or more per day.”

It was found that heavy smokers developed Alzheimer’s 2.3 years earlier than non heavy smokers, and heavy drinkers developed Alzheimer’s 4.8 years earlier than non heavy drinkers. It’s believed that delaying Alzheimer’s by five years “would lead to a nearly 50-percent reduction in the total number of Alzheimer’s cases,” says study researcher Dr. Ranjan Duara.

It was also determined prior to the study whether each participant had the “å4 gene variant of the APOE gene, which increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.” Those with this gene developed Alzheimer’s on average 3 years before those without the gene.

Heavy drinking, heavy smoking, and the presence of the å4 gene variant, were considered “risk factors” for the early development of Alzheimer’s. “People who had all three risk factors developed the disease 8.5 years earlier than those with none of the risk factors.” The average age for developing Alzheimer’s for those with all three risk factors was 68.5 years old, while those with none of the risk factors on average developed Alzheimer’s at 77 years of age.

For the middle aged and elderly, these numbers should hold great significance. Drinking and smoking in moderation, if at all, could greatly reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, or at least hold it off for some time.

Source: Defeat Diabetes Foundation: Duara, Ranjan. Seroka, Rachel. American Academy of Neurology 60th Anniversary Annual Meeting press release. April 2008.