While most people understand the dangers of underage drinking, less attention is given to the risks of drinking during middle age. Heavy alcohol consumption can have a wide range of negative health effects, which only accumulate and worsen over time. Alcohol’s effects on the brain are particularly severe. As people age, it’s important to understand the ramifications that heavy drinking can have on their mental health.
Heavy drinking linked to memory loss
According to Science Daily, a wide-ranging study conducted by the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) has found that heavy drinking is linked to premature memory loss in people who are middle-aged and older. The AAN observed a focus group of more than 7,000 participants to see if there was a link to their memory retention and alcohol consumption. Three times over a ten-year period, the study group’s consumption of beer, wine and liquor were assessed. Once the participants reached 56 years of age, they began taking tests over the next 10 years that assessed their memory and executive functions, such as attention and reasoning skills. The studies found that participants who consumed two or more drinks every day suffered losses in memory up to six years sooner than those who drank less. In contrast, there was no difference in brain function between those who drank fewer than two drinks and those who abstained completely.
The results of the study show that drinking in middle age can reduce brain function over time, contributing to a more rapid mental decline. Middle-aged drinkers should be on guard about the amount of alcohol they drink if they wish to preserve their faculties and independence into their golden years. Excessive drinking caused by alcoholism, in particular, can have serious ramifications on their mental health.
The effect of alcoholism on the brain
Chronic heavy drinking as a result of alcoholism is known to contribute to a number of health risks to the brain (National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism). For example, alcoholics are particularly prone to suffering from Wernicke–Korsakoff Syndrome, which is caused by a lack of thiamine. Thiamine is a vital nutrient necessary for the health of all tissue in the body, including the brain. However, 80 to 90 percent of alcoholics suffer a thiamine deficiency, which can result in Wernicke–Korsakoff Syndrome. The lesser version of the disease can cause temporary mental confusion, loss of coordination and paralysis of the eye muscles. Victims of the disease may become too confused or disoriented to perform basic tasks, and may even lose the ability to walk.
The more extreme and long-lasting version of Wernicke–Korsakoff Syndrome is called Korsakoff’s psychosis. This condition causes permanent brain damage, which results in chronic mental problems and makes it especially difficult to form new memories. Many victims will be unable to look after themselves and require a caretaker. This disease is only one of many conditions that could result from the debilitating effects of alcohol on the brain.
If you or someone you know has developed a drinking problem and may have become addicted to alcohol, it is vital to act as quickly as possible before serious health conditions set in. The Arizona Drug Addiction Helpline can provide information and contacts to connect you with an effective alcoholism treatment program. Call us now to learn more.