August 2018

Heavy Alcohol Use May Lead to Dementia

As many as 7 in 100 adults ages 60 and older are diagnosed with dementia, a broad term for a deterioration in thinking skills that often leads to loss of independence. A new study found a strong link between heavy alcohol use and dementia, especially in early-onset dementia, which occurs before age 65.

Man holding glass of wine

Early-onset dementia and heavy drinking

The study, published in The Lancet Public Health, looked at the hospital records of more than 1 million people in France diagnosed with dementia. Of the more than 57,000 adults diagnosed with early-onset dementia, 57 out of 100 were chronic heavy drinkers. There was also a strong link between alcohol use and all other types of dementia. 

Heavy drinking is defined as more than 4 drinks a day for men and about 3 drinks a day for women.

Heavy drinking also linked to other health problems

Light to moderate drinking may have some benefits for your heart, but heavy drinking has been linked to heart and liver disease, stroke, depression, and some types of cancer. If you’re concerned about your drinking habits, here are some tips to cut back: 

  • Track your drinks. This will help you take an honest look at your habits.

  • Pace yourself. Sip slowly and aim to have no more than one drink an hour.

  • Have a spacer. After each drink, have a nonalcoholic spacer, such as water or soda. 

  • Don’t drink on an empty stomach. Food helps your body absorb alcohol more slowly.

  • Develop other pastimes. If drinking takes up a lot of your free time, look for other hobbies or activities that don’t involve alcohol. 

Are you having too much alcohol?

Take a quiz from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to check on your drinking habits and see if you might be imbibing too much.