Binge Drinking Escalates Cognitive Decline
A study by Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry and the University of Exeter says that there is a possible link between binge drinking and chance of developing dementia in older people.
This insight was presented on the day where several health care professionals and scientists from around the world jammed up in Vancouver to discuss latest research on Alzheimer's disease at the annual International Conference of Alzheimer's Association. The National Institute funded the project with the Health Research Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care in the South West Peninsula
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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" said Dr. Iain Lang from the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry, and the lead author of the study. "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,"
About 5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer's, the most common type of dementia, and by 2050 that number is expected to grow to as many as 16 million, according to the Alzheimer's Association. The number of people worldwide with the condition is expected to swell to 115 million by 2050.
In order to conduct the study, Lang and his colleagues analyzed data from 5,075 people who belonged to the age group of 65 and above who belonged to the U.S Health and Retirement study. This data was garnered in 2002 and they kept a track on these participants for eight years. Among the total number of participants there were 167 men and 47 women reported binge drinking once a month and 86 men and 15 women said they engaged in binge drinking on average twice a month.
At the end of the study, the research found that those who reported binge drinking once a month were 62 percent more likely than those who didn't to be in the group with the greatest decline in cognitive function and 27 percent more likely to be in the group with the greatest memory drop-off. For those who engaged in the heavy drinking twice a month, they were 147 percent more likely to be in the group with the greatest cognitive decline and 149 percent more likely to be in the group with the greatest memory loss.
"In our group of community-dwelling older adults, binge drinking is associated with an increased risk of cognitive decline," Dr. Lang said. "That's a real worry because there's a proven link between cognitive decline and risk of dementia. Those who reported binge drinking at least twice a month were more than twice as likely to have higher levels of decline in both cognitive function and memory."
"These differences were present even when we took into account other factors known to be related to cognitive decline such as age and level of education. This research has a number of implications. First, older people - and their doctors - should be aware that binge drinking may increase their risk of experiencing cognitive decline and encouraged to change their drinking behaviors accordingly. Second, policymakers and public health specialists should know that binge drinking is not just a problem among adolescents and younger adults. We have to start thinking about older people when we are planning interventions to reduce binge drinking" he added.
According to researchers these findings will be of great help especially for the physicians and public health policy specialist.
Tina Hoang, the lead study author and clinical research coordinator at the San Francisco Veterans Administration Medical Center concluded saying, "These findings suggest that alcohol use in late-life may not be beneficial for cognitive function in older women. It may be that the brains of oldest old adults are more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol, but it is also possible that factors associated with changing alcohol use related to coping or loss could be involved. Clinicians should carefully assess their older patients for both how much they drink and any changes in patterns of alcohol use."