Binge Drinking Increases Risk Of Cognitive Decline

By Amir Khan on July 18, 2012 3:20 PM EDT

Alcohol
Alcohol consumption, binge drinking in particular, severely raises the risk for cognitive decline and memory loss, according to research presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference 2012 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo: Reuters)

Alcohol consumption, binge drinking in particular, severely raises the risk for cognitive decline and memory loss, according to research presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference 2012 in Vancouver, Canada.

Researchers found that adults 65 years of age or older who reported binge drinking, having four or more drinks on one occasion, twice per month or more were 2.5 times more likely to suffer cognitive decline and memory loss than those who did not binge drink.

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"We know binge drinking can be harmful: it can increase the risk of harm to the cardiovascular system, including the chance of developing heart disease; and it is related to an increased risk of both intentional and unintentional injuries," Iain Lang, study author and researcher with the University of Exeter in England, told the Daily Mail. "However, until we conducted our study it was not clear what the effect was of binge drinking on cognitive function and the risk of developing dementia."

The report follows a study that came in January by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which found that one in six adults in the U.S. binge drink and adults 65 years of age or older binge drink more than any other group.

"It's not just how much you drink but the pattern of your drinking," Lang told USA Today. "Older people need to be aware, if they do binge-drink, of the risks and they should change their behaviors."

People who began drinking as they got older experienced a higher risk as well. Researchers found that women who became drinkers over the course of the study had a 200 percent increased risk compared to non-drinkers. In addition, moderate drinkers were 60 percent more likely to develop cognitive impairment and women who drank more in the past had a 30 percent higher risk.

"Alcohol use in late life many not be beneficial in older women," Tina Hoang, study author and researcher with the Veterans Health Research Institute in San Francisco, told USA Today. "It may be that the brains of older individuals are more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol."

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