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Smoking and heavy drinking linked to cognitive decline

By Tim Sandle     Jul 22, 2013 in Health
A new study indicates that a combination of smoking and heavy drinking habits can contribute to the acceleration of age-related cognitive decline.
Perhaps it is unsurprising that over indulgence in stimulants affected the body; however previous research has not studied the combined effect of heavy smoking and drinking in tandem in any great detail. For the new study scientists from University College London assessed 6,473 adults aged between 45 and 69 years over the course of a decade.
At the start and during the course of the study, all participants were asked about their cigarette and alcohol consumption, and their cognitive function including verbal and mathematical reasoning, short-term verbal memory and verbal fluency.
The researchers found that smokers who drank alcohol heavily suffered 36 percent faster cognitive decline than non-smoking moderate drinkers over the course of the ten year period. From this the extrapolated finding is that for every ten years one of the participants will age it is estimated that the brains of heavy-drinking smokers will age the equivalent of 12 years.
It could be argued, therefore, that the study shows the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle in mid-life. Discussing the research, a lead scientist behind the study, Dr Gareth Hagger-Johnson, said to Health Today: "Current advice is that smokers should stop or cut down and people should avoid heavy alcohol drinking. Our study suggests that people should also be advised not to combine these two unhealthy behaviors."
The research outcome has been published in the British Journal of Psychiatry. The paper is titled “Combined impact of smoking and heavy alcohol use on cognitive decline in early old age: Whitehall II prospective cohort study.”
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