University College in London researchers discovered that smoking in combination with heavy drinking resulted in a 36% decrease in brain function and performance in study participants. In fact, the brain function decline worsens as more alcohol is consumed.
The study authors conclude that by taking the necessary precautions to avoid practicing both habits of drinking and smoking together, that people can preserve their mental health and skills for later in life. Study lead, Dr. Gareth Hagger-Johnson released this statement to the press:
“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 — particularly from midlife onwards. Healthy behaviors in midlife may prevent cognitive [mental] decline into early old age.”
The study which involved almost 7000 people age 45-69 took place over the course of 10 years. Each participant were avid smokers and drinkers. During the study time-frame the participants were checked on regularly and monitored for their performance in memory, verbal reasoning, verbal fluency, and mental function.
The British Journal of Psychiatry published the study and below the following remarks were noted by Hagger-Johnson:
“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.”
Also researchers note that cognitive functioning can be preserved when certain actions are taken to modify the lifestyle that involves heavy drinking and smoking. Although drinking in moderation has been known to have some positive health impact, it is important that people become aware of the repercussions of heavy drinking and smoking combination on health, period.