A study done in the US has found that males and females in their 50s and 60s who have a history of alcohol abuse are more likely to experience memory problems up to 20 years later.
The study, published in The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, has added to growing evidence that alcohol abuse can result in mental processing issues later.
Researchers state that this is a public issue which needs to be addressed.
During the research period, 6500 middle-aged US adults were questioned about their alcohol consumption in the past. They were asked to answer three questions:
• Had they ever had bad or guilty feelings about their drinking?
• Had they become annoyed when other criticised their drinking?
• Had they ever consumed a drink first thing in the morning to recover from a hangover or to steady their nerves?
The ones who answered yes to one of the questions were considered to have an alcohol problem. The study found that these people were at double the risk of developing severe memory impairment.
Dr Iain Lang from the University of Exeter Medical School said that there is an awareness of the fact that alcohol is bad for the brain generally, however it is not only how much you consume, but how it affects you that is important. The quantity is important, but it is also important to determine if you have problems with drinking or if other people state that you have a problem.
His advice is to remain within the recommended daily and weekly amounts and to cut back if affected by one of the questions in the questionnaire.
The director of research and development at the Alzheimer’s Society charity, Dr Doug Brown, said there were hidden costs related to alcohol abuse as evidence is mounting that the misuse of alcohol may impact on cognition later in life. He said this research was dependent on self-reporting which indicates that the numbers may be higher.
He added that this did not imply that people should abstain from alcohol completely. Along with eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight and not smoking, a glass of red wine now and then may help in reducing the risk of developing dementia.
The science director at Alzheimer’s Research UK, Dr Eric Karran, said that studies such as these are very useful for observing health trends, however it does not show cause and effect, and there is no clarity as to whether there are other factors which may have had an influence on the results.
Image Credit: Chandler Collins