For many people, drinking heavily is something they do to forget. But a new study shows that a drinking problem early in life could actually make you lose your memory—and possibly your mind—much later in life.

The study, which followed more than 6,000 Americans over nearly two decades, found that those who reported an excessive level of drinking in mid-life also had a more severe loss of memory capacity in later life. The results of the study aren’t precise, since researchers couldn't measure the amount people had actually drunk and only used estimates of how much people thought they had drunk. But the results are very telling for those with alcohol issues.

Participants were asked if they felt they should cut down on drinking, if they had ever been annoyed by someone criticizing their drinking, and if they ever had a drink first thing in the morning. Then, the subjects were given simple memory tests every two years for the next 19 years. As time went on, all participants did worse on the tests, but those who had a history of alcohol problems showed a much sharper decline in memory.

The findings aren’t very surprising, as other research has shown that drinking too much can increase the risk of developing serious memory issues and even dementia.

Clair Walton, a neuroscientist from the Alzheimer’s Society in the UK said, “Taking this paper with previous evidence, people who are concerned with dementia should consider their drinking habits in midlife.”

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