Heavy Drinkers Lose Memory Faster With Age

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More than two or three drinks a day damages men’s memory.

A new study has found that men drinking heavily in mid-life experience faster declines in their cognitive abilities.

The study, published in the journal Neurology, found that men who drank the equivalent of 2.5 drinks per day showed faster declines with age (Sabia et al., 2014).

Some people may be surprised just how low the bar is set for ‘heavy’ drinking. What this study calls ‘heavy’ drinking, many would consider ‘moderate’.

Below this level there was little difference in cognitive health between those who abstained and those who had two or less drinks per day.

The study also included women, but there was little evidence of any increased decline in cognitive health from alcohol consumption.

Although moderate drinking is often considered relatively harmless, some recent studies on rats are not so comforting.

A Rutgers University study gave rats the equivalent of five drinks for men and 3-4 for women (Anderson et al., 2012). This is the amount that puts you on the legal driving limit in the US.

The rats’ brains showed a 40% drop in the number of nerve cells in the hippocampus

The study’s lead author, Megan Anderson, explained:

“If this area of your brain was affected every day over many months and years, eventually you might not be able to learn how to get somewhere new or to learn something new about your life. It’s something that you might not even be aware is occurring.”

Image credit: PtM 1985

 

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Dr Jeremy Dean is a psychologist and the author of PsyBlog. His latest book is "Making Habits, Breaking Habits: How to Make Changes That Stick". You can follow PsyBlog by email, by RSS feed, on Twitter and Google+.

Published: 18 January 2014

Text: © All rights reserved.

Images: Creative Commons License