Cognitive decline is a part of growing older, but reports that alcohol-dependent (AD) individuals who are also chronic smokers may find their brains aging earlier than normal.

There are many factors that may cause early mental deterioration, explains study author Timothy C. Durazzo from University of California San Francisco. However, the combination of drinking and smoking seems to have a more potent effect on the brain.

To learn more about the link, Durazzo and his colleagues worked with four different participant groups between ages 26 to 71. The first group consisted of individuals who never smoked; the second had treatment-seeking AD individuals who haven’t drunk in a month and who never smoked; the third was composed of former smokers; and the fourth group had active smokers. Researchers examined their neurocognitive functions, including motor skills, general intelligence, memory, and processing speed.

The results showed that chronic drinkers who actively smoked showed greater signs of mental aging compared with the other groups.

Durazzo explains, “Chronic cigarette smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and increasing age are all associated with increased oxidative damage to brain tissue. Oxidative damage results from increased levels of free radicals and other compounds that directly injure neurons and other cells that make up the brain.”

(Photo via Tamaki Sono via Flickr Creative Commons)

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