Drinking, Smoking Up Early Alzheimer's
Study Shows Cigarettes and Alcohol Lead to Earlier Development of Alzheimer's Disease
April 16, 2008 -- People who smoke a pack of cigarettes or more a day
develop Alzheimer's disease years earlier than those who do not,
and heavy drinking of alcohol increases the risk even more.
In what is being lauded as a significant finding, research presented at the
American Academy of Neurology's 60th Anniversary Annual Meeting this week in
Chicago shows that smoking and drinking are among the most important
preventable risk factors for Alzheimer's disease.
Researcher Ranjan Duara, MD, of the Wien Center for Alzheimer's Disease at
Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, Fla., found that a combination of
heavy drinking and heavy smoking leads to an earlier onset of Alzheimer's
"It has been projected that a delay in the onset of the disease by 5
years would lead to a nearly 50% reduction in the total number of Alzheimer's
cases," Duara says in a news release. "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."
Duara's study involved 938 people aged 60 and older with possible or
probable Alzheimer's. Family members provided information regarding the
patients' alcohol consumption and cigarette usage.
Heavy smoking was defined as one or more packs of cigarettes a day; heavy
drinking was defined as more than two drinks per day. The researchers also
grouped participants according to whether they carried the apolipoprotein E-4
[ApoE-4] gene variant, which increases risk for Alzheimer's disease.
The study showed:
- Heavy drinkers developed the disease 4.8 years before those who did not
drink as much.
- Alzheimer's developed 2.3 years earlier in heavy smokers than in those who
were not heavy smokers.
- The gene variant reduced the age of onset by three years.
- People with all three risk factors developed Alzheimer's 8.5 years earlier
than those who had no risk factors.
Alzheimer's disease is a progressive, incurable brain disease that leads to
the loss of mental abilities that affect memory and learning. According to the
Alzheimer's Association, about 5 million people in the U.S. live with the
condition. However, there are concerns that the number will skyrocket in the
near future as America's baby boomers reach their golden years.