For some people, even those who otherwise don’t smoke, drinking and smoking cigarettes go hand in hand. Taken alone, heavy drinking and tobacco have many unhealthy side effects. But when taken together, a new study indicates that the pair could contribute to accelerated mental decline.
Researchers from University College London found that those who combine heavy drinking with tobacco smoking suffer serious consequences. Combining the two indulgent and unhealthy behaviors was associated with 36% faster decline in brain function. As the amount of alcohol increases, this rate only accelerates further.
The researchers looked at 6,500 adults between the ages of 45 and 69 for a ten year period. The study subjects were asked about their smoking and alcohol habits. Their mental function was tested three times over the period of the study using a combination of verbal and math reasoning, verbal fluency, and short-term verbal memory tests.
“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,” lead researcher Dr. Gareth Hagger-Johnson explained. “From a public health perspective, the increasing burden associated with cognitive [mental] aging could be reduced if lifestyle factors can be modified, and we believe that people should not drink alcohol more heavily in the belief that alcohol is a protective factor against cognitive decline.”
The study was published in a recent volume of the British Journal of Psychiatry and the researchers warn that although there was an association between smoking, heavy drinking, and cognitive decline, it didn’t prove a cause-effect relationship.
Still, this research adds one more danger to the detrimental effects of smoking. Others include:
- The cost to your wallet
- The cost to your health
- increased cancer risk
- Increased risk of high blood pressure
- Increased risk of heart attack and stroke
- The smell
- Shortened life
- Increased healthcare costs
- Inability to get life insurance
- Effects of second-hand smoke on the people around you
Stopping smoking now can actually lessen these many effects and after a period of time, actually eliminate many of them altogether.