ASK DR. MINDY™
MINDY KIM-MILLER, MD, PhD
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I am trying to get my mother to stop smoking and drinking. My mother had depression when she was younger, and she started smoking and drinking pretty heavily during her first serious episode of depression. She is now 74 years old and hasn’t had an episode in a very long time, but she continues to have one drink a day with one cigarette. I heard that her risk of Alzheimer’s disease might be higher because of her bad habits. Is that true?
Your mother has a number of potential risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease (AD). First, a history of smoking in midlife increases one’s risk of developing AD and other dementias later in life. Additionally, elderly smokers increase their risk of AD and cognitive decline compared to former smokers and those who never smoked. Furthermore, smoking in combination with frequent or heavy alcohol consumption further increases one’s risk. So your mother has significantly increased her risk for AD and other dementias by smoking and drinking. If she also happens to carry the ApoE4 gene, smoking and drinking further increase her risk for AD exponentially. The multiple mechanisms involved in this association are complex and involve effects on blood vessels, inflammation, oxidative stress, and numerous other chemicals and processes in the body.
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