How Drinking Alcohol Might Lead to Alzheimer’s Disease

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Nearly five million older adults in the United States live with Alzheimer’s disease, and the number is projected to increase four times by the year 2050. Researchers continue studying the underlying causes of Alzheimer’s disease to find effective treatments, and drinking alcohol has been thought to be a contributing factor. Here’s what you need to know about the link between excessive alcohol consumption and Alzheimer’s. 

The Alcohol/Alzheimer’s Connection

Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome occurs when individuals prioritize drinking over eating a nutritious diet, which results in a severe vitamin B1 deficiency. The disorder is known to cause cognitive and physical impairment. When addicted individuals give up alcohol, start eating a healthy diet, and increase their vitamin B1 intake, the conditions may reverse.  Under normal conditions, microglial cells remove excess amyloid beta proteins from the brain. Alzheimer’s disease develops when the microglial cells of the glymphatic system fail to perform their job efficiently. The proteins increase in number and stick together, which results in plaques that impact the communication between synapses. The conglomeration also interferes with normal blood flow to the cells, leading to permanent cell damage and eventually death. Caring for older adults with Alzheimer’s disease can be a challenging task. If your elderly loved one is living with a serious medical condition and needs help managing the tasks of daily living, reach out to Home Care Assistance, an elderly home care agency you can trust. Our caregivers are available 24/7, there are no hidden fees in our contracts, and we offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee on all of our in-home care services.

Study Results

Researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) found a link between excessive drinking and the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. When someone drinks alcohol, the microglial cells become irritated and inflamed, which impairs their function.  The scientists used rats to study the effects of alcohol on the brain. One group of laboratory animals were given alcohol. Another group received inflammatory cytokines and other chemicals in their brains. A third group was exposed to both alcohol and the inflammatory cells and compounds. After a period of 24 hours, the scientists examined the animals’ brains to determine possible gene expression alterations and the action of the microglial cells. The experiment revealed that alcohol prevents the microglia from performing their function. Thus, amyloid beta proteins were allowed to accumulate, providing evidence that habitual alcohol consumption contributed to the physiological actions that lead to Alzheimer’s development.  Alzheimer’s disease is a serious medical condition that impacts an older adult’s health, wellbeing, and independence. There are a variety of age-related health conditions that can make it more challenging for seniors to live independently. However, many of the challenges they face can be easier to manage if their families opt for professional home care service. Des Moines families can rely on expertly trained caregivers to keep their loved ones safe and comfortable while aging in place.

Revising Alcohol Consumption Guidelines

Many studies encourage alcohol consumption in moderation. Alcoholic beverages are thought by some to have beneficial effects on the brain and cardiovascular system. However, following the UIC study, researchers advise that people greatly reduce the amount of alcohol they drink. They also warn about binge and habitual drinking, which may further hasten the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. The group also suggests further studies must be undertaken to fully learn the correlation between alcohol use and the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.  Alzheimer’s can be challenging for seniors to manage without assistance, and it can be just as challenging for families who don’t have experience in providing Alzheimer’s care. Des Moines Home Care Assistance provides Alzheimer’s care seniors and their families can depend on. Our proprietary Cognitive Therapeutics Method was designed to help seniors with Alzheimer’s and other memory-related conditions live happier and healthier lives. If your loved one needs professional care, Home Care Assistance is here to help. To hire a compassionate, dedicated caregiver, call us at (515) 264-2438 today.


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