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Drinkers more likely to reach 85 without dementia

Men and women who drink one alcoholic beverage a day are more likely to live to the age of 85 without dementia, a study spanning almost three decades claims.

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A drink a day over the age of 65 increases likelihood of reaching 85 without dementia, study claims

The 29-year study by the University of California San Diego School of Medicine found that men and women over the age of 65 who consumed up to one alcoholic drink a day were more likely to live to the age of 85 without dementia or other cognitive impairments than non-drinkers.

The study was published in the August issue of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. Previous studies had found a link between moderate alcohol consumption and longevity.

Linda McEvoy, an associate professor at UC San Diego School of Medicine, said: “This study is unique because we considered men and women’s cognitive health at late age and found that alcohol consumption is not only associated with reduced mortality, but with greater chances of remaining cognitively healthy into older age.

“It is important to point out that there were very few individuals in our study who drank to excess, so our study does not show how excessive or binge-type drinking may affect longevity and cognitive health in ageing.”

The researchers found that men and women aged 85 and above, who consumed “moderate to heavy” amounts of alcohol five to seven days a week were twice as likely to be cognitively healthy than non-drinkers. Moderate consumption for those over 85 equates to up to one alcoholic beverage a day, while heavy consumption is defined as up to three alcoholic drinks a day.

The cognitive health of participants of the study was assessed every four years over the 29-year period, using the standard dementia screening test called the Mini Mental State Examination. A total of 1,344 adults took part in the study, 728 of whom were women and the remaining 616 were men.

“This study shows that moderate drinking may be part of a healthy lifestyle to maintain cognitive fitness in ageing,” commented lead author Erin Richard, a graduate student in the Joint San Diego State University/UC San Diego Doctoral Programme in Public Health.

“However, it is not a recommendation for everyone to drink. Some people have health problems that are made worse by alcohol, and others cannot limit their drinking to only a glass or two per day. For these people drinking can have negative consequences.”

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