Alcohol Abuse Can Lead to Memory Loss, Dementia: Researchers

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By Smitha Nambiar | August 4, 2014 12:05 PM EST

Over-consumption of alcohol in middle age can lead to memory loss and dementia in later life, said researchers from the University of Exeter Medical School in England. The study was published in The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

Reuters
Hideko Hakamada (C), sister of death-row inmate Iwao Hakamada, speaks with supporters in front of Shizuoka District Court in Shizuoka, central Japan March 27, 2014 (Reuters)

Middle-aged adults with a history of alcohol abuse and problem drinking are at a very high risk of severe memory loss and dementia as they grow older, said a study led by Dr Iain Lang from the University of Exeter Medical School in England. The findings, according to researchers, will help doctors in identifying people who are at a higher risk of memory loss or dementia.

The British researchers said that their findings could help doctors identify those at risk for memory problems and dementia due to alcohol abuse and treat them beforehand. "We already know there is an association between dementia risk and levels of current alcohol consumption. That understanding is based on asking older people how much they drink and then observing whether they develop problems," said Lang.

The researchers, during the course of their study, tried to establish the link between having a drinking problem at any point in life and experiencing memory loss or dementia later in life. The research included studying more than 6,500 adults born between 1931 and 1941. They were able to pinpoint the pattern of alcohol abuse, based on three questions:

-    Did you ever at any point in life feel the need to cut on your drinking?
-    Did comments about your drinking habits ever annoy you?
-    Did you ever drink early in the morning as soon as you woke up to steady your nerves or get rid of any hangover?

Speaking about the disastrous effects of alcohol abuse, Lang said, "We know that alcohol is bad for the brain in general, but it's not just how much you drink but how it affects you. The amount that you drink is important - what is also important is if you experience any problems in your drinking or if other people tell you that you have a problem."

To have a healthy life in later years, the researchers recommended drinking in moderate quantity. "This isn't to say that people need to abstain from alcohol altogether. As well as eating a healthy diet, not smoking and maintaining a healthy weight, the odd glass of red wine could even help reduce your risk of developing dementia," said Dr Doug Brown, director of research and development at the Alzheimer's Society charity.

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(Photo: Reuters / )
Hideko Hakamada (C), sister of death-row inmate Iwao Hakamada, speaks with supporters in front of Shizuoka District Court in Shizuoka, central Japan March 27, 2014 (Reuters)
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