Alcoholic Dementia and Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol-related dementia is an umbrella term used to describe cognitive impairment caused by excessive alcohol consumption. If left untreated, this condition can have devastating consequences on a person’s quality of life. Symptoms can include health problems like memory loss and changes in behavior.
Understanding the prevention, symptoms, and treatment of alcoholic dementia is critical for stopping this condition before it progresses. This article will explore the signs to watch out for, preventive measures, and treatments available.
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What Changes in the Brain Occur With Alcoholic Dementia?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), dementia is one of the side effects of long-term alcohol misuse.
Alcoholic dementia is a form of cognitive decline that affects heavy drinkers. This type of dementia causes changes in the brain relating to memory, personality, problem-solving abilities and social skills.
Research has found chronic heavy drinking decreases neuron production in the hippocampus, leading to reduced learning and memory capacity.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, chronic heavy drinking can cause alcohol-related brain damage in vital functions such as memory retention, decision-making abilities, impulse control, attention span regulation and sleep patterns.
The prefrontal cortex is particularly affected by chronic alcoholism, with long-term drinkers having a significantly thinner prefrontal cortex than non-drinkers.
As a result, an individual’s ability to think logically and weigh consequences will be significantly weakened due to the reduced neural activity within this region.
Regular alcohol consumption can also disrupt nerve cell communication pathways leading to distorted thought processes and language difficulties associated with alcoholic dementia.
What Are the Early Signs of Alcoholic Dementia?
One of the most challenging parts of recognizing early signs of alcoholic dementia is that it can masquerade as other physical or mental health issues.
For example, according to the National Institute on Aging, abusing alcohol can trigger some seniors to become absent-minded and confused — signs that may be misconstrued as indications of Alzheimer’s disease or any other form of dementia.
Early warning signs may include:
- Difficulty with verbal communication and reasoning
- Impaired short-term memory
- Sudden confusion or disorientation
- Difficulty with balance and coordination
- Incorrect responses to questions due to memory lapses
- Irritability and agitation
- Poor impulse control
- Changes in personality, behavior, and mood
Caregivers and family members can help spot changes in a loved one’s behavior before it becomes a full-blown medical condition, and if any of these signs seem familiar, seek medical advice from a doctor specializing in dementia disorders.
How Do You Prevent Alcoholic Dementia?
Preventing alcoholic dementia is critical, as it can lead to a serious decline of brain function and cause significant impairments in memory and other cognitive abilities.
The best way to prevent it is to limit alcohol consumption. Excessive drinking increases the risk of permanent damage to brain cells, and regular breaks from drinking can help preserve cognitive health and reduce the possibility of alcohol-induced degradation.
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, consuming less alcohol is far better for your overall health than drinking more. Adults of legal drinking age should abstain from consuming any alcoholic beverages or drink in moderation by limiting their intake to a maximum of two drinks per day for men and one drink daily for women.
According to the University of California, San Diego, heavy alcohol use hinders the absorption of essential nutrients, including thiamin (vitamin B1), vitamin B12, folic acid, and zinc. Therefore eating a healthy diet rich in these nutrients or taking supplements may help reduce the health risks of excessive alcohol consumption.
Are you struggling with heavy drinking? At Zinnia Healing, we understand what a huge challenge living with an alcohol use disorder can be. We strive to provide the best in detox services and outpatient addiction treatments. We want our clients to feel safe, comfortable, and supported every step of the way. If you need help, please don’t hesitate to call us at (855) 430-9439.
How Long Does Alcoholic Dementia Last?
Generally, the effects of alcohol dementia do not reverse on their own and may last for the rest of one’s life. However, according to the CDC, nearly 40% of all dementia can be prevented or delayed with lifestyle changes.
How Do You Treat Alcoholic Dementia?
Treatment options for alcoholic dementia include:
- Abstaining from consuming alcoholic substances
- Taking vitamin supplements and medications
- Getting ample rest, proper nutrition, and exercise
Is Alcoholic Dementia Preventable?
Fundamental lifestyle changes, such as quitting drinking, may reduce the risk of these neurological issues by keeping the brain healthy and reducing oxidative stress.
Regular checkups with a healthcare provider can also help prevent and manage alcoholic dementia.
What is the Difference Between Alcoholic Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alcoholic dementia and Alzheimer’s disease have some similarities, but they are distinct.
Alcoholic dementia is caused by excessive alcohol consumption. Alzheimer’s is a degenerative neurological condition typically occurring after age 65.
1. Symptoms of Alcoholic Dementia
Symptoms of alcoholic dementia can include:
- Difficulty paying attention
- Memory problems
- Difficulty problem solving
- Changes in behavior
2. Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease
On the other hand, symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease may include:
- Becoming lost in familiar settings
- Difficulty speaking and communicating
- Loss of mobility and balance
- Personality shifts
- Difficulty with everyday tasks
Although both illnesses can appear similar at first glance, the underlying causes and treatments are quite different.
Seek professional treatment if you suspect you or a loved one is living with either condition.
What Are Some of the Symptoms of Korsakoff’s Syndrome?
Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is a condition that causes similar symptoms to dementia. It occurs when there is a thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency and is sparked by alcohol abuse, chemotherapy or other conditions that create vitamin deficiencies.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the symptoms of this condition vary from person to person but typically include the following:
- Memory problems
- Vision problems
- Confusion and disorientation
- Impaired judgment
- Low blood pressure
- Lack of muscle coordination and tremors
The disease begins as Wernicke’s encephalopathy and can then progress to Korsakoff syndrome. When treating Wernicke’s encephalopathy, it is essential to prioritize the replacement of thiamine before focusing on replenishing nutrition and hydration.
Timely detection and thorough treatment of Wernicke’s encephalopathy can reverse most of its symptoms. However, progress in restoring memory is usually slow and incomplete. Neglecting to take action on this disorder can be disastrous, so it is important that you act quickly to avoid potential disability or even death.
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