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Heavy drinkers have higher risk of getting dementia

In a new study, the majority of early-onset dementia diagnoses were related to chronic heavy drinking.

shutterstock_243234700 Source: Shutterstock/g-stockstudio

REGULARLY DRINKING ALCOHOL can increase a person’s risk of developing dementia, according to new research.

A study of over one million adults diagnosed with dementia in France found that alcohol-related disorders are the most important preventable risk factors for the onset of all types of dementia, especially early-onset dementia.

The study, published in the The Lancet Public Health journal, looked specifically at the effect of alcohol use disorders, and included people who had been diagnosed with mental and behavioural disorders or chronic diseases that were attributable to chronic use of alcohol.

Of the 57,000 cases of early-onset dementia (before the age of 65), the majority (57%) were related to chronic heavy drinking.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines chronic heavy drinking as consuming more than 60 grams pure alcohol on average per day for men (about three pints of beer) and 40 grams per day for women.

Drinkaware_StandardDrinks_FINAL Source: DrinkAware.ie

The authors of the study suggest that screening, interventions for heavy drinking, and treatment for alcohol use disorders should be implemented to reduce the impact alcohol has on a person developing dementia.

Premature deaths 

“The findings indicate that heavy drinking and alcohol use disorders are the most important risk factors for dementia, and especially important for those types of dementia which start before age 65, and which lead to premature deaths,” study co-author Dr Jürgen Rehm said.

Alcohol-induced brain damage and dementia are preventable, and known-effective preventive and policy measures can make a dent into premature dementia deaths.

Dr Rehm added that, on average, alcohol use disorders shorten life expectancy by more than 20 years, and dementia is one of the leading causes of death for these people.

In the study there was a significant gender split in terms of early-onset dementia.While the overall majority of dementia patients were women, almost two-thirds of all early-onset dementia patients (64.9%) were men.

Alcohol use disorders were also associated with all other independent risk factors for dementia onset, including smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, lower education, depression and hearing loss. The authors said this suggests that such disorders may contribute in many ways to the risk of dementia.

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Órla Ryan

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