Slashing alcohol intake 'could curb your risk by up to a third'

Lydia Fleming
February 22, 2018

But Schwarzinger cautioned that people outside France should still take the findings seriously: "While the rate of alcohol use disorders is lower in the United States of America, it remains substantial enough to be considered major risk factor for dementia onset".

The study, published Tuesday in the journal Lancet Public Health, found that of the 57,000 patient volunteers with dementia diagnosed before the age of 65, 57% of them were chronic heavy drinkers, meaning they consumed an average of more than five drinks per day for men and three per day for women.

Researchers studied a French national database to examine the effect of alcohol disorders, including those diagnosed with mental and behavioural conditions or chronic disease attributable to drink abuse.

Dr Doug Brown, of the Alzheimer's Society, said: "This suggests alcohol-abuse disorders may be responsible for more cases of early-onset dementia than previously thought".

The study found an increased risk of dementia among chronic heavy drinkers overall, but this risk was particularly strong when it came to early-onset dementia, with 39% of cases attributable to alcohol-related brain damage, and 18% related to other alcohol use disorders.

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Alcohol use disorders were also associated with all other independent risk factors for dementia onset, such as tobacco smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, lower education, depression, and hearing loss, among modifiable risk factors.

"As a geriatric psychiatrist, I frequently see the effects of alcohol use disorder on dementia, when unfortunately alcohol treatment interventions may be too late to improve cognition", says CAMH Vice-President of Research Dr. Bruce Pollock.

There are several types of dementia - Alzheimer's disease being the most common, followed by vascular dementia.

Years of heavy drinking can take a toll on the brain. Of those patients, 16.5% of the men and 4% of the women had alcohol use disorders, which CNN reports is about twice the rate of those without dementia.

Heavy drinking may be a major risk factor for all types of dementia, especially early-onset dementia, retrospective research from France suggested.

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This prevalence increased in patients with early-onset dementia: 38.9% (22,338/57,353 cases) of early-onset cases were associated with alcohol-related brain damage and 17.6% (10,115/57,353 cases) were associated with other alcohol use disorders.

Though heavy alcohol use increased the risk of dementia in general, the association was shown to be stronger in men. Heavy alcohol consumption can lead to cognitive decline and permanent brain damage. Clive Ballard, professor at the University of Exeter Medical School in Britain, described the findings as "immensely important".

12 ounces (355ml) of regular beer (about 5% alcohol).

More than 80% of French adults older than age 65 - and 50% before that age - were admitted to hospitals over the 6-year study period, which supports a high generalizability of this research, Schwarzinger's group noted. "The study just shows that you are more likely to be in hospital with a diagnosis of dementia if you drink more heavily".

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Other reports by Info About Network

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