Study Shows Heavy Drinking's Added Effects on Aging Brains

November 17, 2016
Heavy Drinking Affects Aging Brains

Alcohol has been linked to a number of troubling health problems, including liver cirrhosis, high blood pressure, pancreatitis and cancers of the throat, esophagus, mouth, breast and liver. Now, a new study suggests that alcohol effects go beyond this by impacting critical brain functions.
Reduced Cognitive Function
A study out of the University of Florida indicates that chronic alcohol consumption can take a negative toll on aging brains. Published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, the research included 35 women and 31 men, all with varying drinking habits.
The researchers started by dividing the participants into three groups, consisting of non-drinkers, moderate drinkers and heavy drinkers. After completing a series of comprehensive brain tests, the heavy drinkers demonstrated reduced abilities related to attention, memory, learning, verbal function, motor function and thinking speed.
Permanent Changes
While 53 percent of the study's participants had a lifetime history of alcohol dependence, only 21 percent were still considered heavy drinking. Still, despite lifestyle changes later in life, past drinkers still showed reduced brain function. This suggests that previous periods of heavy drinking may have causes irreversible, long-term damage that did not improve once the subjects reduced their alcohol intake.
A Serious Problem for Older Adults
While alcohol can negatively impact anyone at any age, it can be especially problematic for seniors. Not only are older bodies less resilient, they often require medications that mix poorly with alcohol. Because medication regimens are often negatively affected by alcohol, researchers advise seniors to avoid drinking altogether. If they do drink, it's important for seniors to be honest with their physicians, so they can monitor any health changes and better tailor medication regimens.

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