Page last updated: Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Drinking and old age
Scientists suspect there is a link between moderate drinking and both a healthy heart and brain (keeping mental faculties sharp well into old age). Moderate imbibing may lead to lower blood pressure which in turn helps the heart to deliver oxygen-rich flows of blood to the brain. Drinking may also help to reduce the risk of dementia disease such as Alzheimers.

Dr Jorge Cervilla et al found evidence that moderate drinking can reduce the impact of advancing years. The aim of the study by Institute of Psychiatry, London, was to identify factors that predict failing cognitive function long before the onset of clinically significant deterioration.

The study involved a cohort of 1083 subjects with mild hypertension and the analysis examined factors predicting change in cognitive function. At the time of entry to the Medical Research Council (MRC) Treatment Trial of Hypertension in Older Adults comprehensive measurements of cognitive function, vascular condition and vascular risk factors were taken. After a gap of 9-12 years, the follow-up using the Mini-Mental State Examination looked at 387 subjects ( 35.5% of the initial cohort; 56% of survivors)

After adjustment for cognitive function, poor cognitive outcome at follow-up stage was associated with a wide range of factors including;increasing age, less decline in systolic pressure during the trial period, a family history of dementia, never having smoked, abstinence from alcohol before the age of 60, lower social class, lower education and a lower pre-morbid IQ score.The researchers conclude that; Reduction in systolic blood pressure (among hypertensives) and moderate alcohol intake could protect against cognitive deterioration in late life.

A rapid loss of "cognitive function" was also found among heavy drinkers and the researchers advise that the results be interpreted with caution as there were certain limitations to the study as all the subjects were mildly hypertensive and only 58% of survivors were examined at the second stage, limiting how far it is possible to make generalisations from the study.
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