Published: Thu, February 22, 2018
Health Care | By Gwendolyn Kim

Alcohol use biggest preventable risk factor for dementia

Alcohol use biggest preventable risk factor for dementia

He said: 'A variety of measures are needed, such as reducing availability, increasing taxation, and banning advertising and marketing of alcohol, alongside early detection and treatment of alcohol use disorders.' The academics said alcohol attacks the brain in a number of ways, leading to permanent structural and functional damage.

The findings come from an observational study of more than a million adults who were diagnosed with dementia between 2008-2013.

Alcohol disorders could increase a person's risk of having early-onset dementia.

During the same period, there were 94,5512 people - more than 85 per cent of them alcohol dependent - diagnosed with alcohol use disorders.

"Our findings suggest that the burden of dementia attributable to alcohol use disorders is much larger than previously thought, suggesting that heavy drinking should be recognized as a major risk factor for all types of dementia", Schwarzinger said in a press release.

Of 1.1+ million adults diagnosed with dementia, one in twenty had an early-onset (before 65 years old). "Therefore, it is somewhat unsurprising that early-onset dementia identifies a cluster of men with alcohol use disorders".

In light of their findings, the researchers recommendthe introduction of screening, brief interventions and treatment for alcohol use disorders to reduce its impact on dementia.

Rehm noted alcohol use disorders shorten life expectancy by more than 20 years, and the authors wrote in the study that "alcohol use disorders should be recognized as a major risk factor for all types of dementia".

Heavy drinkers are at increased risk of developing dementia, a progressive brain disease that generally begins with mild memory loss, suggests the largest study of its kind ever conducted.

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There are several types of dementia - Alzheimer's disease being the most common, followed by vascular dementia. For men, the limit is 7.5 units a day or about three pints of beer, while for women it is five units a day or four small glasses of wine.

"Surprisingly, we've not traditionally considered alcohol and its misuse as an important risk factor and we were clearly wrong not to have done so".

It also raises the risk of head injuries, stroke and heart problems, which in turn can lead to increased dementia risk.

Rehm and his team also found that there was a gender divide in the results. Among all men with dementia, the prevalence of alcohol use disorders climbed to 16.5%.

"We have no idea what is the level of drinks they were actually drinking", Schwarzinger added.

Though the study had a very large sample size, it looked at individuals in only one country, making it hard to generalize across cultures.

"This is a worthwhile study but it does not prove that dementia has been caused by people drinking alcohol or that people who now drink alcohol will develop dementia".

World Health Organization (WHO) has defined chronic heavy drinking as the consumption of more than 60 g of pure alcohol (i.e. 4-5 Canadian standard drinks) on average per day for men and 40 g ( i.e. about 3 standard drinks) per day for women.

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