Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

The A-Files, Alcohol A-Z for Alcohol Awareness Month: Dementia & Brain Health


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Twenty-six episodes of ‘The A-Files’ will run throughout Alcohol Awareness Month on YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Alcohologist.com andAddictedMinds.com, among other web and social media sites. Episode D examines dementia and brain health compromises from alcohol use.

By age 80, one in every six people have developed dementia. Alcohol use influences the risk you’ll be the one of six, and/or that you’ll get this incurable disease before you’re 80.
Approximately 200,000 adults in the United States acquire dementia before age 65. A Swedish study ties early dementia to alcohol abuse and the disease of alcoholism. The report of the study in the Journal of the American Medical Association JAMA Internal Medicine did not determine a specific level of drinking.

Alcohol use increased the risk of dementia in men before age 65 at five times the risk of non-drinkers. The lead researcher remarked that the average age of onset of dementia in the study group was 54 years and the risks increased 20 times when two or more of the risk factors were spotted.

The U.K.’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) advises that for middle-aged people – ages 40-64 – there is “no safe level of alcohol consumption” as it relates to the risk of developing dementia. Even moderate alcohol use increases the risk. There’s enough evidence-based research demonstrating lasting brain damage from regular alcohol use and binge drinking. Alcohol alters brain structure at the cellular level. Even in casual drinkers, the hippocampus is still affected by the toxins in alcohol. This is what causes you to forget — either temporarily or permanently — certain memories.

We’ve all heard that we’re killing brain cells… the ones we’re killing are the new ones. A drinker replenishes brain cells at a rate 40 percent slower than in brains of non-drinkers according to a study in the Journal Neuroscience in 2012. Loss of brain tissue is very clear when drinking six glasses of alcohol daily. Even over a short period, like a weekend binge.

The brain has white matter and gray matter. Alcohol reduces white matter comprising 60 percent of the brain, according to a 2014 study from Harvard Medical School. The take-away from the Harvard research is that their data indicated possible recovery for the white matter with abstinence in drinkers who stopped drinking before age 50.But it’s never too late to quit.