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07/30/2014 01:22 pm ET Updated Oct 28, 2014

Midlife Drinking Problems Could Spell Memory Loss In Later Life

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Alcohol abuse is no doubt a painful thing, causing health and relationship troubles. But researchers now have reason to believe that the consequences of heavy drinking in midlife could come back to haunt you later in life.

A new study conducted by the University of Exeter Medical School says older adults who've had a history of problem drinking in midlife are more than twice as likely to have severe cognitive and memory impairment than those who don't.

Published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, the study looked at over 6,500 adults aged 60 to 70 at the start of the study in 1992, and followed them until 2010. "We already know there is an association between dementia risk and levels of current alcohol consumption -- that understanding is based on asking older people how much they drink and then observing whether they develop problems," researcher Iain Lang said in a release. "But this is only one part of the puzzle and we know little about the consequences of alcohol consumption earlier in life. What we did here is investigate the relatively unknown association between having a drinking problem at any point in life and experiencing problems with memory later in life."

A study published earlier this year by the University College London found men who are moderate or heavy alcohol drinkers can show signs of cognitive impairment up to six years faster than those who drink lightly or abstain altogether.

Heavy drinking for men is considered to be 15 or more drinks per week and for women, eight, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Alcohol abuse can not only hurt your health, but lead to dangerous situations like drunk driving, and hurt your ability to fulfill your responsibilities inside the home and at work.

Researchers say the findings are a reminder that more research needs to be done on the long-term -- and not only short-term -- effects of alcohol abuse on health and also for physicians to look out for signs of alcohol abuse in middle-aged patients, so they can curb the chances of memory loss later in life.

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