The Link Between Alcohol and Dementia

October 24, 2023

Heavy alcohol consumption can lead to permanent structural and functional changes to the brain. In recent years, researchers have also studied the link between alcohol and early-onset dementia. A broad term for disorders that impact brain function, dementia can cause loss of memory, language, and problem-solving to the extent that it hinders daily life. Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most common types of dementia, impacting 6 million Americans of all ages.

Here’s how alcohol may impact dementia development.

Excessive Drinking May Increase Risk of Dementia

Among the cases of people diagnosed with dementia in one study, 16.5% of the men and 4% of the women had alcohol-use disorders. The researchers defined alcohol-use disorders as “the chronic harmful use of alcohol or alcohol dependence,” reported CNN.

This led experts to conclude that excessive drinking is the most preventable risk factor for dementia — and particularly for the types of dementia that start before age 65 and lead to premature death.

Scaling Back from Heavy to Moderate Drinking May Lower Dementia Risk

Reducing alcohol intake from heavy to moderate lowered the risk of dementia, according to a separate study from South Korea.

In fact, heavy drinkers who cut back to moderate drinking experienced an 8% decrease in the risk of dementia from any cause. They also had a 12% decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, one of the most common types of dementia.

What’s considered “moderate” drinking? Two drinks a day or less for men and one drink a day or less for women, per the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Mitigating Dementia Risk by Screening for Excessive Drinking

Early intervention is vital when it comes to preventing cognitive damage from excessive drinking.

The first step is determining how much alcohol you or a loved one is actually consuming. Keeping a log is a good way to accurately track it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This also enables you or your loved one to answer alcohol-abuse screening questions more accurately during annual wellness visits.

If you or a family member want to assess your alcohol intake and take proactive steps to reduce it, this alcohol screening test from the CDC is a great place to start.

Join Us in the Fight Against Alzheimer’s Disease

MIND Institute at Miami Jewish Health is a leading clinical research site for the latest treatments for Alzheimer’s disease. As part of our mission to find a cure, we maintain strong affiliations with esteemed institutions such as Johns Hopkins University and the University of Southern California. We also work alongside leading pharmaceutical companies to drive progress in Alzheimer’s research.

Under the visionary leadership of Dr. Marc E. Agronin nationally recognized expert on Alzheimer’s disease, memory disorders and geriatric psychiatry our clinical research trials employ the latest methodologies and are guided by the most promising theories in the field.

If you or a loved one are interested in participating in or learning more about our Alzheimer’s disease research, call us at 305.514.8710 or visit our Alzheimer’s clinical research trials page.


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