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Memory and Alcohol – Is There a Connection?


Growing older isn’t easy. Aging affects overall health and well-being and increases the risk of various health conditions. One of the most dreaded effects of aging is memory loss and cognitive impairment. Recent research has shown a connection between alcohol consumption and memory loss.

Memory Loss in Men Linked to Heavy Drinking in Middle Age

In a recent European study, researchers found a link between alcohol consumption and mental losses. These scientists found that men who consume 2.5 alcoholic beverages a day or more during midlife experience a decline in attention, reasoning skills, and memory up to six years sooner than those who drink less alcohol. Effects of heavy drinking on women could not be determined in the study because far fewer middle-aged women participated in the research.

Effects of Alcohol on the Brain

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), alcohol clearly affects the brain and may do long-term damage to a person who drinks heavily over a long period of time. Heavy drinking may have far-reaching effects ranging from slips in memory to permanent mental impairments.

The extent to which alcohol affects the brain and memory depends on several factors, including:

  • How often and how much the person drinks
  • How long the person has been drinking
  • The age at which the person began drinking
  • General health status
  • Pre-natal alcohol exposure
  • Age, gender, education level, genetic background, and family history of alcoholism

NIH reports that people who drink heavily over an extended period run the risk of serious and persistent changes in the brain. Damage to the brain may result directly from the effects of alcohol or indirectly from poor general health associated with heavy drinking.

For example, a vitamin B1 (thiamine) deficiency is common among people who consume large amounts of alcohol. Vitamin B1 is an essential nutrient, necessary to all the body tissues, including the brain. Excessive alcohol consumption can also damage the liver, and prolonged liver dysfunction can harm the brain.

Alcohol Can Cause Short-Term and Long-Term Memory Loss

In the short term, alcohol consumption can cause blackouts – a form of amnesia that occurs when alcohol alters the activity of the hippocampus of the brain, thought to be the center of emotion, memory, and the autonomic nervous system.

Alcohol may also be associated with long-term memory loss. Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is a brain disorder involving permanent damage to the parts of the brain that deal with memory. This condition results from a vitamin B1 deficiency, which is extremely common among heavy drinkers.

Med Alert Systems for Senior Citizens

In addition to memory loss, aging increases the risk of certain health issues, including stroke, heart attack, and serious falls. Med alert systems can help protect seniors in a health emergency by making it possible to get help on the way immediately. See our medical alert reviews for information about new technology and features in med alert systems available today.

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