A Tip to Help Your Late-Life Memory

Could it be true? Mild to moderate alcohol consumption in later life improves our memories?


Champagne, Chardonnay or Burgundy?

First let’s understand what the hippocampus is and does from Biology.com

The hippocampus is the part of the brain that is involved in memory forming, organizing, and storing. It is a limbic system structure that is particularly important in forming new memories and connecting emotions and senses, such as smell and sound, to memories. The hippocampus is a horseshoe shaped paired structure, with one hippocampus located in the left brain hemisphere and the other in the right hemisphere. The hippocampus acts as a memory indexer by sending memories out to the appropriate part of the cerebral hemisphere for long-term storage and retrieving them when necessary.


The hippocampus is involved in several functions of the body including:

  • Consolidation of New Memories
  • Emotional Responses
  • Navigation
  • Spatial Orientation

Having a healthy hippocampus is desirable for robust thought processes or cognition, and for memory storage and retrieval. A strong hippocampus means a strong memory and the ability to think critically and understand.

A drink or two a day can help us have a healthier hippocampus?

That’s what a collaborative study from the Universities of Texas, Kentucky and Maryland, researchers found:

“Compared to late life abstainers, moderate consumers had larger hippocampal volume, and light consumers had higher episodic memory. The findings from this study provide new evidence that hippocampal volume may contribute to the observed differences in episodic memory among older adults and late life alcohol consumption status.”

For those of us entering the later stages of life, starting at 60 years of age, if we do not have dementia (important point!), we can benefit from having a drink or two a week which may help us recall memories of events.

There is one caveat – “Amount of alcohol consumption had no impact on executive function or overall mental ability.”

From an article in ScienceDaily:

“Findings from animal studies suggest that moderate alcohol consumption may contribute to preserved hippocampal volume by promoting generation of new nerve cells in the hippocampus. In addition, exposing the brain to moderate amounts of alcohol may increase the release of brain chemicals involved with cognitive, or information processing, functions.”

If you already have your one or two drinks a day, and continue this pattern into older age, you may be healthier overall, and be able to maintain your brain and memory health by continuing this pattern.

“There were no significant differences in cognitive functioning and regional brain volumes during late life according to reported midlife alcohol consumption status,” said lead author Brian Downer, UTMB Sealy Center on Aging postdoctoral fellow. “This may be due to the fact that adults who are able to continue consuming alcohol into old age are healthier, and therefore have higher cognition and larger regional brain volumes, than people who had to decrease their alcohol consumption due to unfavorable health outcomes.”

There is a warning that comes with this:

“Although the potential benefits of light to moderate alcohol consumption to cognitive learning and memory later in life have been consistently reported, extended periods of abusing alcohol, often defined as having five or more alcoholic beverages during a single drinking occasion is known to be harmful to the brain.”

Moderation is the key – 5 drinks a day or more are damaging to your liver and brain. These findings do not give us permission to overimbibe. Ever.

Along with your occasional drink, you should be eating a mediterranean diet, keeping your Vitamins B12 and D3 levels up and exercising regularly.

Cheers to your healthy hippocampus, the making of many fond memories and a healthy mind into our older years!

About Candace

Candy Dye is a Nurse Practitioner and teacher that loves everything about health, wellness, looking beautiful, and being with people who enjoy life and love to have fun!

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