As we age, our cognitive functions begins to decline. The largest factor for Alzheimer’s is age, which is an inevitable part of life. Although we cannot control our age anymore than our genetics, there are risk factors that you’re in control of.
However, the lifestyle you choose to live has a massive impact on your future health. We are learning new information each day, guiding us towards a healthier lifestyle. We are well aware of how smoking and drinking affect our health.
When you think about smoking, you think lung cancer. When you think about excessive drinking, you think of liver damage. Of course other organs are affected, such as the heart and kidneys, but what about the brain? Brain health is so important, especially for the aging population.
How Smoking Is Linked to Alzheimer’s
Since Alzheimer’s is now the third leading cause of death in America, it’s important that we focus on factors that we can control. Throughout the world, 14% of Alzheimer’s cases have been directly linked to smoking. This was not only true within North America and Europe, but China, Latin America, and India.
Free Radicals and Oxidative Stress
There are thousands of chemicals within each cigarette you smoke. These chemicals are not only toxic to your heart, lungs, and liver, but they also create toxins within your brain. When you smoke, you create oxidative stress, which is due to free radicals.
Free radicals are unstable oxygen molecules that are reactive. Once there’s a build-up of free radicals, your risk of developing Alzheimer’s increases. The same is true for Parkinson’s and a number of other conditions and diseases. Tobacco smoke increases free radicals, as it is composed of oxidants.
Basically, smoking generates free radicals, increasing your risk of Alzheimer’s and other cognitive conditions. When you smoke and exhale gases, this gas phase is full of free radicals. Due to this gaseous state, second-hand smoking is also a concern. If you do decide to smoke, avoid smoking around others, especially children.
Atherosclerosis is when your arteries harden and narrow, obstructing blood flow. Your heart health is directly related to your brain health. When blood flow is restricted, your brain does not receive enough vital nutrients and oxygen. This essentially deprives your brain cells, causing damage and even cell death.
When you smoke, you increase atherosclerosis (both within the heart and brain). Since smoking increases the hardening of arteries, you are in control. You can decrease the amount of stiffness and plaque build-up by choosing not to smoke.
Alcohol and Alzheimer’s Development
It’s believed that alcohol is a significant risk factor for Alzheimer’s. However, the effects of alcohol dementia and Alzheimer’s are so similar, that it’s hard to study the relationship between the two. On the other hand, there is no doubt that excessive alcohol consumption plays a role in cognitive decline. Meaning, it’s highly likely that alcohol consumption can increase one’s risk of Alzheimer’s.
Studies Showing the Connection Between Alcohol and Memory Loss
The first study examined women who were 65 or older. These women began as either non-drinkers, mild drinkers, or moderate drinkers. After twenty years, the women were evaluated, focusing on potential memory loss. It was found that when the women shifted from no drinking, to any level of drinking, they increased their risk of memory loss by 200%.
The second study focused on binge drinking (having four or more drinks in one sitting). Participants were followed for eight years, starting in 2002. Those individuals that participated in binge drinking once a month, increased their risk by 62% regarding memory loss. When these episodes were increased to twice a month, the risk of developing memory loss increased to 147%.
Take Care of Yourself
There’s nothing wrong with having a glass of wine or two on occasion (in fact, red wine contains powerful antioxidants). However, you should be conscious of your consumption. If you’re currently a smoker, take proactive measures to quit. It not only increases your risk of Alzheimer’s, but is linked to a number of other health conditions as well.
The lifestyle you choose to live has a massive impact on your future health, both physical and mental. Not only should you not smoke and watch your alcohol consumption, but you should follow a nutritious diet, stay active, and get plenty of rest. When you actively take care of your brain health, you can significantly decrease your risk of developing Alzheimer’s or another degenerative disease.
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