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Memory-loss cause #6: Excessive drinking

8 Causes of Memory Loss That AREN'T Alzheimer's: Page 6

By , Caring.com contributing editor
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African American Woman Looking Down

Why it happens: Heavy drinking doesn't just damage the liver and kidneys. Imaging studies have shown proof of brain impairment, too. Shrinkage is worst in the frontal lobe, which governs higher intellectual functions, although other structures are also affected -- including those involved in memory.

Long-term excessive drinking can cause a condition called Korsakoff syndrome, a form of alcohol-induced dementia.

What else to look for:

  • Do you have other signs of alcoholism? These include a history of falls, excessive sleep, drinking alone to cope with difficult emotions, tardiness at work (due to hangovers), and morning drinking.

  • How old are you? The ability to metabolize alcohol declines with age. So two or three beers for a 70-year-old have the same effect as four or five beers did at age 50.

  • Are you drinking and taking prescription medications? Certain drug and alcohol combos can be toxic to the brain, even at relatively low levels of drinking.