A study in the US has found that men and women in their 50s and 60s who had a history of alcohol abuse were more likely to suffer from memory problems decades later. The study adds to the growing body of evidence linking excessive drinking to impaired mental processing.
In the study 6,500 US adults were asked the following questions:
1. Had people annoyed them by criticising their drinking?
2. Had they ever felt guilty about their drinking?
3. Had they ever had a drink in the morning to get over a hangover or steady their nerves?
Those who answered yes to one or more of these questions were considered to have had a problem with alcohol. The study found that those who had a problem had more than double the risk of developing severe memory impairment.
“We know that alcohol is bad for the brain in general, but it’s not just how much you drink but how it affects you,” said lead researcher, Dr Ian Lang (from the University of Exeter Medical School).
Dr Lang also pointed out that the amount of alcohol you consume is important and whether or not you experience any problems in your drinking. He advises people to drink within the recommended daily and weekly amounts and to cut down if they answer yes to any of the three questions.
This study highlights the hidden cost of alcohol abuse; on top of the well-known health implications, cognitive function is yet another potential cost of alcohol abuse to the NHS.
Dr Doug Brown, director of research and development at the Alzheimer’s Society charity points out that while the information from this study is important, it doesn’t mean you have to abstain from alcohol together. Eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, not smoking and drinking within the guidelines all contribute to better health overall.