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Adults 65 and older who binge drink at least twice a month are two-and-a-half times more likely to suffer cognitive and memory declines, compared with seniors who don’t binge drink, according to research presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference.

The study followed 5,075 adults ages 65 and older for eight years. The researchers found 4.3 percent of men and 0.5 percent of women reported binge drinking twice a month or more, USA Today reports. An additional 8.3 percent of men and 1.5 percent of women reported binge drinking once a month or more. The study defined binge drinking as having four or more drinks on one occasion.

Lead researcher Dr. Iain Lang of the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom noted in a news release that it is not clear whether binge drinking in older adults has a damaging effect on a person’s cognitive health, or whether it increases the risk of developing  dementia.

He noted that the research suggests older people and their doctors should be aware that binge drinking may increase their risk of cognitive decline and should be encouraged to change their drinking behaviors accordingly. “Policymakers and public health specialists should know that binge drinking is not just a problem among adolescents and younger adults; we have to start thinking about older people when we are planning interventions to reduce binge drinking,” Lang added.

Another study presented at the conference found moderate consumption of alcohol did not protect the mental functions of older women. The study included 1,306 women ages 65 and older, who were followed for 20 years.

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