Binge drinking isn’t just a problem for young people. New research suggests heavy drinking can cause bigger problems in coordination, learning, and memory for seniors than youngsters.
The findings, by Baylor University researchers, suggest drinking may put older people at greater risk for life-threatening falls and poor decision-making.
"Health implications such as falls, accidents, and poor medicine-taking are pretty easy to conclude," said Douglas B. Matthews, who conducted the study published online in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.
Matthews and colleagues noted past research has shown 13 percent of American men and 8 percent of women over age 65 engage in risky drinking behavior, and up to 3 percent have an alcohol use disorder.
Matthews, a research scientist in psychology and neuroscience in Baylor's College of Arts & Sciences and head of psychology at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, examined the effects of alcohol on adult and aged rats and found a dramatic increase in ethanol-induced ataxia — a lack of muscle coordination that hinders speech, eye movements, and the ability to walk.
"We know a lot of neurobiological changes occur during aging which underlie age-related cognitive and behavioral deficits. It's reasonable to suspect a significant interaction exists between age-related and alcohol-induced effects in the brain," said co-researcher Jim Diaz-Granados, chair of Baylor's department of psychology and neuroscience.
"Our hope would be that further findings in this area will serve as a basis to educate the public regarding the risks and provide insights in the clinic."
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