Smoking, Alcohol, and Alzheimer's

Byron's Comments:

Inducing major inflammatory damage to your brain from substance abuse noticeably increases the risk for early onset Alzheimer's.

Study Title:

Smoking and alcohol 'link' to early Alzheimer's onset.

Study Abstract:

From press release published by The Time, London:

Heavy smokers and drinkers develop Alzheimer’s six to seven years earlier than those who do not smoke or drink, a study presented to a scientific meeting in Chicago has claimed.

Carrying the gene that predisposes people to the disease will also reduce the age at which the onset of Alzheimer’s occurs. The worst possible combination is to smoke, drink and carry the gene, which on average reduces the age at which Alzheimer’s is diagnosed by 8.5 years.

Heavy drinking, defined in this study as more than two drinks a day, accelerated onset by 4.8 years, and heavy smoking (20 cigarettes a day) by 2.3 years. Carrying a gene called APOE variant 4 accelerated onset by three years.

The study was presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting by a team from Mount Sinai Medical Centre in Miami Beach.

It looked only at people who had already been given a diagnosis of probable or possible Alzheimer’s.

The study does not throw light on whether drinking or smoking actually cause the disease.

It simply claims that among people who develop Alzheimer’s smoking and drinking are linked to an early onset of symptoms.


Other studies have found that drinking one to three alcoholic drinks a day is linked to a lower risk of dementia of all sorts. A Dutch study showed that the incidence of dementia in drinkers was 42pc lower.

The study, led by Ranjan Duara, gathered information from family members about the drinking and smoking habits of the patient, and also carried out genetic tests.

“These results are significant because it’s possible that if we can reduce or eliminate heavy smoking and drinking, we could substantially delay the onset of Alzheimer’s for people and reduce the number of people who have [it] at any point,” Dr Duara said.

“It has been projected that a delay in the onset of the disease by five years would lead to a nearly 50pc reduction in Alzheimer’s cases.”

A second study presented to the conference suggested that high cholesterol levels at the age of 40 increased the risk of Alzheimer’s by about 50pc.

Dr Susanne Sorensen, head of research at the Alzheimer’s Society, said that dementia placed a huge burden on society.

“Smoking, drinking heavily and having high cholesterol can all lead to an increased risk of developing this devastating condition.
- Nigel Hawkes in London

Study Information:

 Smoking and alcohol 'link' to early Alzheimer's onset.   2008 April  

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