Since most forms of dementia aren’t entirely curable yet, seniors often wonder how they can prevent it from developing. There are all sorts of rumors about how drinking wine each day can prevent dementia, but at the same time, there’s also the idea that too much alcohol can end up causing dementia. The reality is that alcohol’s effects on dementia are still not clearly understood, but researchers have found there can be both benefits and disadvantages to drinking alcohol. Here’s what you need to know about the link between dementia and wine.
Drinking Large Amounts of Wine Raises Blood Pressure
One of the most important things to consider when thinking about whether alcohol affects dementia risk is blood pressure. Higher blood pressure is associated with an increased risk for dementia because it can gradually damage the brain. In general, alcohol consumption leads to higher blood pressure. Having more than three drinks in a sitting leads to blood pressure spikes, and repeated binge drinking can cause chronic hypertension.
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Some Types of Wine Might Be Helpful
Though too much alcohol raises blood pressure and therefore raises dementia risk factors, some research has found that moderate amounts of wine can be beneficial. A 2004 study from The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that a moderate amount of red wine—about one glass a day for smaller people or two glasses a day for larger people—could possibly lower blood pressure. Researchers theorize this happens because grapes contain resveratrol, a type of protective compound that makes blood vessels more elastic.
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Drinking Alcohol May Contribute to Amyloid Plaque Buildup
A 2018 study published in the Journal of Neuroinflammation provided a lot of insight into how alcohol can increase dementia and Alzheimer’s disease risks. It turns out the body has a difficult time clearing amyloid plaques—a type of waste product made of protein—out of the brain when it’s busy processing alcohol. Since a buildup of amyloid plaques is one of the hallmark signs of dementia, there’s concern that alcohol of all types can increase the risk of developing the condition.
It’s Best to Reduce Alcohol Consumption
Almost all doctors agree that large amounts of wine or any other alcohol can increase a person’s dementia risks. Too much alcohol causes high blood pressure, vitamin deficiencies, and amyloid plaque buildups, and it can even result in another type of dementia caused by excessive alcohol abuse. It’s a little harder to determine whether more reasonable amounts of alcohol can cause Alzheimer’s disease. Red wine might have some slight protective effects, but the negative impact of the alcohol itself may be enough to still cause problems. Seniors who are concerned about their risk of dementia may want to cut back on alcohol consumption just to be safe.
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