While researchers are still learning about the link between drinking and dementia, it is important to act now to raise awareness of alcohol consumption as a risk factor.In recognition of National Aging Life Care Month, this post will explore the link between heavy drinking and dementia, as well compare and contrast alcohol consumption in the United States and South Africa, two countries that rank high among heavy-drinking nations. The goal is for aging professionals to explore how different cultures can prevent cognitive decline.
Binge drinking typically occurs after four drinks for women and five drinks for men-in about two hours, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Despite steps to address dementia in South Africa, there is still no national plan that deals with the risks associated with alcohol use. The U.S. has several organizations, such as the Alzheimer’s Association, which provide interventions to reduce alcohol-related cognitive decline.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), South Africa has the highest level of alcohol consumption in Africa per capita. This is most alarming since South Africa has been highlighted as the worst country in the world for drunk driving, where about 58 percent of road deaths are related to alcohol consumption. WHO also places the U.S. and South Africa both among the top countries in terms of per capita alcohol consumption.
High on the list was the recommendation that people between the ages of 40 and 64 to “reduce the amount they drink as much as possible.” As dementia rates continue to increase in the U.S. and South Africa, it is important that aging professionals raise awareness of the causal relationship between heavy drinking and dementia.
This article was also published in the Milken Institute's Currency of Ideas blog.