Does Alcohol Cause Your Brain to Shrink?

Can Alcohol Shrink Your Brain?

Can too much alcohol prime your brain for getting Alzheimer’s disease? Yes. Absolutely. Too much alcohol can shrink your brain. 

It can also impair your brain’s ability to clear the accumulation of toxic Alzheimer’s protein called amyloid, which will put you at risk of getting Dementia.

But let’s dig into this a bit deeper. How much alcohol is too much, and what kind of impact will alcohol have on your brain? 

These are some questions I like to explore because neuroscience is my passion, and I hope that everyone takes hold of the ability to grow their brains. 

It is the steps that you chose to take in your daily life that impact the longevity of your brain’s health and prevent disease later on in life. So let’s dive in together and figure out the factors that affect how much alcohol is too much. 

How much alcohol is healthy to drink?

There are some things which you should consider on a personal level before deciding how much alcohol is too much. And we will go over these things, but first let’s talk about drinking in moderation standards in the US.

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, and the US Department of Agriculture, moderate drinking is defined as “1 drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.”

Drinking one or two glasses of alcoholic beverages (maximum of one per day for women and two per day for men)  can have some anti-inflammatory benefits for the brain and the heart. But this suggested amount relies on several factors. 

You should only consider drinking 1-2 glasses daily if you already exercise at least 45 minutes 4 times a week. Another factor is sleep; you need to have 8 hours a night.

How are your stress and anxiety levels?

Drinking regularly combined with a low-stress lifestyle, and proactive desire to continually challenge your brain daily is a must. 

If you are not doing these things, then you should limit your drinking to social occasions on weekends only. 

If you already have memory problems, you should not drink even one drop of alcohol. It will expedite the rate of your memory loss with aging. 

Pathological Changes in the Brain

While these are the drinking in moderation standards in America, it is essential to recognize the scientific-based data on drinking in moderation and its impact on the brain. 

According to a study done by the British Medical Journal, moderate drinking may not be so good for your brain. 

Researchers from the University of Oxford and University College London studied 550 men and women over 30 years. Researchers followed and measured the brain function and structure of participants. They did this to determine how moderate alcohol consumption affects the mind over time. 

Participants in the study periodically underwent tests that challenged their thinking skills. At the end of the study, all participants had MRI scans taken of their brains. 

The results came in and suggest that drinking just over seven drinks or less a week did not hurt or enhance brain health. However, drinking over seven alcoholic beverages per week did impact brain health. 

Studies proved that eight or more drinks per week directly correlates with shrinkage of the hippocampus, which is a part of your brain that is very important for memory. But the results found more.

Drinking more than eight drinks per week was found to cause deterioration of white matter in the brain which deals with your brain’s internal wiring. Both of these parts of your brain are associated with a decline in thinking skills. 

How Much is too Much?

So how much is too much? More than seven drinks a week is most likely too much. You need a healthy brain to live a long and happy life. 

The most important takeaway is that your lifestyle is what is going to impact your brain health more than anything else. 

If you are coming home every day and looking forward to a glass of wine instead of a good read or run around the block, health issues will arise.

If you find that you forget things very often, and you still use alcohol on a daily basis, your ability to remember things will decrease faster over time. 

So take a look at your lifestyle. Are you are active, passionate, and engaging? Do you participate in regular brain-stimulating activities like meditation, memorization, and exercise?  If so, go ahead and follow the rules suggested for moderate consumption. 

It is essential to be mindful about your specific situation and take the healthiest steps possible. 

Grow Your Brain

Your brain actually has the ability to grow. Participation in activities that could cause some of the most important functions in your brain to demise overtime is not what’s best for your body.  

Drinking can be a nice way to relax, and these are just the facts behind how alcohol can impact your brain’s health. It is really up to you to decide what to do with them in your daily life. 

If you would like to work on your brain health and cognition, our 12-week brain fitness program might be the right fit for you! 

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