Getting together with your friends for a cocktail or enjoying a few drinks at a party may seem like harmless fun, but it can have a profound effect on your ability to remember all the details. Although many people know that alcoholism has significant effects on your health, you may be surprised that social drinking can also harm your health and your brain.
Read on to learn just how alcohol can affect the brain.
Decreasing Brain Cells
Research shows there is a correlation between alcohol intake and a significant decrease in brain cells, according to Kodoom, citing a research paper published by The BMJ Group. The effects are notable even in moderate drinkers, although the decrease is more substantial in long term social drinkers. The research specifically tracked a type of brain cell known as Purkinje brain cells, which consistently decreased after exposure to alcohol, but had no age-related effects.
The extent of the damage depends largely on a variety of factors including how often and how much you drink. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), drinking has far-reaching damaging effects on the brain, ranging from memory slips to memory impairment, difficulty walking and slowed reaction times.
Reduced Ability to Transfer Information
The NIAAA also reported that research shows significant impairment on your brain’s ability to absorb information and transfer it into your short-term memory and your long-term memory, which creates difficulties in retrieving those memories. The degree that alcohol impacts the process appears to have an increasing effect depending on the amount you drink, but even one or two drinks can interfere with your ability to store memories.
Neurotransmitters are powerful chemicals that carry messages between neurons in your body, creating various responses, moods and feelings. A heavy dose of alcohol, even if it’s just once, can disturb that balance of your neurotransmitters. In turn, this relays information slowly, creating drowsiness and memory loss.
Over time, exposure to significant amounts of alcohol can cause your brain mass to shrink and the inner cavity of your brain to increase in size. In addition to tampering with your memory, these changes also change the way you learn, how you sleep and your motor coordination.
Fade to Black
If you’re one of the people who believe that a blackout happens when you drink until you pass out, think again. According to Psychology Today, during an alcohol-induced blackout, you can still interact with others and walk and talk, you just won’t remember any of it. Caused by a rapid rise in the body’s alcohol level, anyone who slams them back or drinks on an empty stomach is susceptible to a blackout.
Related Memory-Busting Ailments
Even social drinkers can develop liver damage over time. Liver damage, in turn, can also affect the brain by releasing toxins that travel to the brain and damage brain cells.
Minimizing the Risks
Drinking less reduces the likelihood of developing alcohol-related memory impairment. To keep your consumption in check, Rethinking Drinking suggests keeping track of how much you’re drinking, pacing yourself, drinking plenty of water and avoiding drinking on an empty stomach.
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