Alcohol and Risk of Cognitive Impairment: Abstaining is Risk

The risk of cognitive impairment (CI) has again been found higher among those who drink less alcohol.


This study followed 1,309 women age 65 or older for twenty years. Alcohol drinking was assessed periodically for 16 years. At the end of 20 years, CI, including dementia, was measured.

Some women cut their drinking by one-half drink or more per week. They increased their risk of CI or dementia by 34.5%. Adjusting for age, education, diabetes, smoking, weigh, and physical activity had little impact on the results.


CI exists when people have problems with their thinking skills. It might be loss of higher reasoning, forgetfulness, or problems learning. It might be difficulties concentrating or other reductions in mental functioning.

CI can progress to dementia, which is a general term for a major decline in mental ability. It’s severe enough to interfere with daily life. People with dementia may have many cognitive deficits. They have problems with short-term memory. Generally, they find it hard to find keys, purses, and similar things.

risk of cognitive impairment

They also have a hard time planning and organizing. It is hard to plan a meal and prepare it. Completing ordinary tasks becomes hard. They may get lost going to the store or even at home. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia.

Reduce Risk of Cognitive Impairment

Some factors that increase the risk of CI, such as age and genetics, can’t be changed. But lifestyle choices can improve brain health.

The risk of CI can be reduced in a number of ways.

    • Exercise regularly.
    • Maintain good overall physical health.
    • Eat nutritional food.
    • Keep your mind active and challenged.
    • Interact with other people.

The Alzheimer’s Association recommends the Mediterranean diet. It reduce the risk of CI. That diet consists of these.

    • Eating more fruit, vegetables, nuts and grains.
    • Replacing butter with healthful fats such olive oil.
    • Limiting red meat.
    • Replacing salt whenever possible with herbs to flavor food.
    • Eating fish and poultry at least twice a week.
    • Regularly drinking alcohol in moderation. (Beer, wine or distilled spirits.)

The Alzheimer’s Association’s recommendation is simple. “Keep your heart healthy to help keep your brain healthy. Growing evidence suggests that many factors that increase the risk of heart disease also may increase the risk of dementia. These factors include smoking, obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.'”1

In short, there are many things that can reduce the risk of CI.

Resources: Alcohol and CI

Popular Books

Readings (Scientific)


Dementia Groups


    • This website gives no advice about alcohol and cognitive impairment. For that, please see your doctor.