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Too Much Alcohol Impairs Seniors' Thinking

Effects are more evident in women, researchers say

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 27 (HealthDay News) -- Elderly people who are heavy drinkers are more likely to suffer memory and cognitive problems than mild-to-moderate drinkers, a new study shows.

Brazilian researchers examined drinking and memory/cognition in 1,145 volunteers aged 60 and older. The participants included 419 men and 726 women from different socioeconomic levels.

"We found that heavy alcohol use among the elderly people we investigated was high, at 8.2 percent, and affected principally men from low socioeconomic levels. However, the effects of heavy alcohol use on memory and other cognitive functions were more evident in women," study corresponding author Marcos Antonio Lopes, currently a visiting lecturer at Newcastle University in England, said in a news release.

The researchers also found that that participants who were mild-to-moderate drinkers, especially women, had lower rates of cognitive problems than nondrinkers.

The study is published online in advance of the April print issue of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

"There is a scarcity of information about alcohol use and the elderly which needs to be resolved in order to construct a real diagnosis and promote proper health care for this population," Lopes said.

"This study shows that older people keep drinking along the life span," Jerson Laks, an associate professor of the State University of Rio de Janeiro and a researcher with the Brazilian National Committee for Research, said in the news release. "Taking into consideration that drinking may lead to falls and to cognitive impairment when heavy use is the case, this study creates important awareness about the issue."

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more about seniors and alcohol.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, news release, Jan. 27, 2010

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