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Does Alcohol Affect Memory?


Research in the past has documented the negative effects of alcohol on cognitive function. However, as reported in an article in Time, it may begin to affect memory sooner than was originally thought.

In a study conducted by researchers from University College London, the drinking habits of 5,054 men and 2,099 women were assessed over a 10-year period at three different times. When participants in this study reached 56 years of age, they were given the first of three tests for memory and executive function, with these tests then administered over the next 10 years.

These researchers found that men who have an average of 2.5 alcoholic drinks a day showed signs of memory loss up to six years sooner than men who drank moderately or those who did not drink at all. This connection still held when other contributors to memory loss, such as diet, exercise, and occupation, were factored in. Although a similar trend was not found among the women who participated in the study, women who engaged in heavier drinking did show lower levels of planning and organization skills.

For purposes of this study, a drink was defined as liquor, beer, or wine. Researchers found no difference in memory loss between beer drinkers and wine drinkers. Participants imbibing gin, vodka, or other liquor showed the fastest decline in memory.

Alcohol Causes Memory Impairment – But Not by Killing Brain Cells

According to a Live Science article, memory loss caused by alcohol consumption is not due to destroyed brain cells. In a recent study, researchers looked at heavy drinking that causes blank spots in memory and how it affects the brain.

This study found that alcohol is not damaging brain cells, and there were no changes in the way brain cells communicate, even at the highest alcohol levels. Instead, researchers found that alcohol in large amounts can cause brain cells to release steroids that block formation of long-term memories.

These researchers were testing the effects of alcohol on memory in rats. When they used drugs commonly used by humans for prostate reduction to block the formation of steroids released by brain cells with large amounts of alcohol, the rats were still able to form memories. There may be large differences in the effects of alcohol on memory in patients taking these drugs.

Medical Alert Systems with GPS

For many senior citizens, memory loss can become a problem as we grow older. This is when medical alert systems with GPS can be particularly valuable. In the event of an emergency, after the push of a button on a medical alert pendant or bracelet, the operator can pinpoint your location with GPS tracking and send help on the way immediately. See our medical alert comparison for information about different medical alert systems with GPS.

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