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Senior Binge Drinkers Risk Cognitive Decline

Adults 65 and older who drink heavily may be at a higher risk for dementia, a new study suggests.

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By Valerie Tejeda

07/19/12

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If you're getting up there in years, you may want to adhere to a daily two-drink maximum, or risk losing some marbles. Older adults who drink heavily may be at a higher risk for cognitive declines that could lead to dementia, according to new research. A study recently presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Vancouver followed 5,075 U.S. adults (ages 65 and older) for eight years, tracking their memory and cognitive function via telephone survey. Results showed that the participants who were binge drinking (consuming four or more drinks on one occasion) at least twice a month, were two and a half times more likely to experience memory loss and cognitive decline. "It's not just how much you drink but the pattern of your drinking," says lead study author Dr. Ian Lang. "Older people need to be aware, if they do binge-drink, of the risks and they should change their behaviors." An earlier report conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January found that one in six adults in the US are binge drinkers, and surprisingly, adults aged 65-and-over were the most likely group to binge drink. "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," says Lang. However, alcohol in smaller quantities may not be so bad—previous studies have shown that drinking moderate amounts (up to two drinks for men, and one for women) may actually reduce the risk of dementia.

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