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Your Healthy Family: Just one drink a day can shrink your brain

A Cleveland Clinic Doctor explains what this means for your brain health
Posted at 7:34 AM, May 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-16 07:34:36-04

A new study shows that even having just one beer or glass of wine a day can shrink your brain, and it gets worse the more you drink.

The study looked at alcohol and brain volume. Dr. Jessica Caldwell of Cleveland Clinic's Center for Brain Health wasn’t directly involved with the study, but weighed in on what the study means for cognition and day-to-day life function.

“What we do know is that the brain shrinks in things like Alzheimer’s Disease. The brain shrinks in healthy aging, but it’s just shrinking to a different degree. So a little bit of shrinkage may not have any signs at all or they might be mild signs,” she said.

Dr. Caldwell said once the brain shrinks to a certain level, you may become forgetful, get lost more easily, or have trouble with walking or balance. She said the good news is that our brains are very resilient, so if you were to stop drinking, your brain could rebound to some degree.

Right now, doctors recommend no more than one drink a day for women, and no more than two for men. But Dr. Caldwell said that number should be even lower if you are getting older.

"Because your body is cutting back on its ability to process in the same way, so it looks from this study to be true that we should all carefully think about how much alcohol that we’re putting in so we can maximize our brain health,” Dr. Caldwell said.

She said if you notice you’re having a hard time restricting how much you drink or experiencing any concerning symptoms, call your doctor.