Drinking by older people raises memory-loss risk
Moderate drinking and binge drinking by older people raise risk of cognitive decline and memory loss, find two studies presented Wednesday at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference 2012 in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Adults 65 and older who reported binge-drinking twice a month were 2 times more likely to suffer cognitive and memory declines than similar-aged adults who don't binge-drink, defined as four or more drinks on one occasion.
"It's not just how much you drink but the pattern of your drinking," says lead author Iain Lang of the University of Exeter in England. "Older people need to be aware, if they do binge-drink, of the risks and they should change their behaviors."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes moderate drinking as no more than one drink a day for women and no more than two drinks a day for men.
Lang's eight-year study followed 5,075 U.S. adults 65 and older and assessed cognitive function and memory; 4.3% of men and 0.5% of women reported drinking heavily twice a month or more; another 8.3% of men and 1.5% of women did so once a month or more.
In another study, moderate alcohol consumption had no protective effect on mental function in 1,306 women 65 and up followed for 20 years.
Women who changed from not drinking to drinking over the course of the study had a 200% increased risk of cognitive impairment compared with non-drinkers.
Women who reported drinking more in the past than at the beginning of the study were at a 30% increased risk of developing cognitive impairment compared with non-drinkers.
Moderate drinkers in the late phase of the study were roughly 60% more likely to develop cognitive impairment compared with non-drinkers.
Earlier studies suggest drinking in moderation might decrease risk of cardiovascular disease and dementia. But older brains may be "more vulnerable" to even moderate drinking, says author Tina Hoang, Veterans Health Research Institute, San Francisco.
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