The Link Between Alcohol Use And Dementia - Landmark Senior Living


Jul 17 2019

The Link Between Alcohol Use And Dementia

Post by: Joe Gilmore

Alcohol use is associated with a number of different chronic diseases and problems in the body. Drinking alcohol affects nearly every organ in the body and can cause a wide range of physical and mental health issues. One commonly overlooked problem associated with alcohol is the way that the substance increases the risk of many different diseases and problems, including dementia-related problems.

While alcohol use may not cause Alzheimer’s disease specifically, it can have a serious effect on cognition and memory. It can also lead to symptoms similar to that of dementia. Unfortunately, the problems can become severe enough that it may lead to some seniors being unable to function properly in their day-to-day lives.

Alcohol Use and Cognition

A woman in the woods smiling at the camera. Individuals are learning that there might be a link between alcohol use and dementia

Heavy alcohol use leads to both immediate and long-term effects on the brain and cognitive function in the body. Heavy drinking causes and accelerates shrinkage and atrophy in the brain. This type of effect on the brain leads to neurodegenerative changes and cognitive decline. The shrinkage in the brain associated with alcoholism is similar to that of those with Alzheimer’s disease. However, changes observed from alcohol-related disorders may be no more than superficially similar to those seen with aging or Alzheimer’s disease.

Moreover, alcohol’s effects on the brain may be reversible unlike the changes that occur from aging and Alzheimer’s disease. Atrophy in the brain can decrease after abstinence of alcohol. While excessive and continued alcohol use can lead to problems with neuronal connections in the brain. However, it was found that because the neurons did not appear to be lost or disrupted, functions could be restored and neural connections can be reestablished after abstinence of alcohol.

Can Alcohol Cause Alzheimer’s Disease

While the use of alcohol causes users to run an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, current evidence does not support the assertation that alcohol can cause Alzheimer’s disease.

While there may not be evidence that alcohol use causes Alzheimer’s disease specifically, it can lead to alcohol-related brain damage that can result in dementia-related issues.

Alcohol-Related Brain Damage

A glass of wine on an outdoor table. Individuals are investigating the connection between alcohol use and dementia

Alcohol-related brain damage is a brain disorder that is caused by regularly drinking too much alcohol over several years. Alcohol-related brain disorder covers a number of different conditions including Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome and alcoholic dementia. Neither of these are actually dementia, but they do share similar symptoms.

Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome

Korsakoff syndrome is a chronic memory disorder characterized by severe deficiency of Vitamin B-1 (thiamine). As mentioned before, the syndrome is commonly caused by the use of alcohol. When the level of thiamine falls too low in the brain, it cannot generate enough energy to function properly.

Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is the most well-known form of alcohol-related brain damage, however, it is no the most common form. It is much less common than other forms of alcohol-related brain damage, such as alcoholic dementia.

Korsakoff syndrome is often preceded by and episode of Wernicke encephalopathy, a type of a acute brain reaction from severe lack of thiamine. This brain reaction is a medical emergency and can cause life-threatening brain disruption, confusion, staggering, loss of coordination, and more.

Alcoholic Dementia

Alcoholic dementia, also known as persisting dementia, is, as the name suggests, caused by excessive and chronic alcohol use that causes a generalized shrinkage in the brain. The disease, including brain shrinkage may be reversible with abstinence.

A person with alcoholic dementia often deals with issues such as:

  • Poor planning and organizational skills
  • Problems with decision-making
  • Impulsivity
  • Problems with attention and slower reasoning
  • Lack of sensitivity to the feelings of others
  • Being socially inappropriate

As many know, there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s or dementia. With that said, there are lifestyle changes that you can make to help your mind and body deal with the symptoms associated with these illnesses. Also, for those dealing with alcohol-related or alcohol-induced dementia’s, abstinence can be a saving grace.

If you are able to overcome your alcohol habit, it can help you conquer these dementia problems as well.

Alcohol Treatment

For those who are dealing with alcohol-related issues, there are treatment options available that can help you or a loved one get sober and stay sober. Getting treatment for these types of issues is not something that should be balked at due to age. Many may think that it is too late for them in their life to receive treatment and that it may be pointless. This is far from the truth. Reducing alcohol intake or stopping completely can help you stay healthy and live a longer, more fruitful life.

There are a number of different treatment options that facilities can offer, and many will work to create a personalized recovery plan to help someone achieve and maintain sobriety. Learning more about inpatient and outpatient treatment options is a great way to help you understand what path is best for you.

Alcohol-related problems and dementia are serious issues that can lead to some seniors being unable to function properly and struggle with day-to-day tasks. When this is the case, it may require the help of an assisted living facility or caregiver.

Next Steps

Alcohol use has an obvious connection with dementia and can lead to alcohol-induced dementia’s such as Korsakoff syndrome. These types of problems can lead to memory and cognition issues that may require the help of an assisted living facility. Landmark Senior Living is one organization that can provide your loved one with an advanced level of care.

Landmark has a number of different buildings available, each are staffed with dedicated and knowledgeable care providers that can help make your loved one’s stay with Landmark an exciting and fun experience. Landmark’s facilities also offer memory care services to help those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia. If you are interested in learning more about Landmark Senior Living and what we can offer, you can reach out to our website and schedule a free tour of any of our assisted living facilities in New Mexico.

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