Heavy drinking may increase risk for dementia

Heavy drinking played a role in more than half of the 57,000 cases studied

Heavy drinkers are more likely to be smokers, have depression and lead unhealthy lives, which increases the risk of dementia.

'But because this study only looked at hospital admissions, and was based in France, we would need further research in other healthcare settings and countries to fully understand how many cases of early-onset dementia are caused by alcohol abuse.

Image for representational purposes only. Of 57,000 cases, 38% were "alcohol related by definition" and another 18% featured an additional diagnosis of alcohol use disorder, per the Guardian.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), "heavy drinking" is defined as consuming more than 60 grams of pure alcohol a day for men and more than 40 grams per day for women.

A new study - the largest of its kind - has found that heavy alcohol use could increase one's risk for all types of dementia, and especially for the early-onset of dementia before 65 years of age.

A total of 1.3 million people were diagnosed with dementia during the five-year span.

But he said the Lancet research did not change the current advice and did not suggest that moderate alcohol intake could cause early-onset dementia. Over six per cent of men and 1.5 per cent of women discharged from hospital had alcohol use disorders, compared to 16.5 per cent of men and four per cent of women with dementia.

The findings suggest that alcohol abuse screening and treatment could reduce the risk of alcohol-related dementia, the researchers said.

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Dr. Bruce Pollock, vice president of CAMH Institute for Mental Health Policy Research, said: "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".

The median age of dementia onset was 82 for men and 85 for women. This indicated the numerous ways in which alcohol use disorders contribute to the risk of dementia.

Dr Sara Imarisio, of Alzheimer's Research UK, added: 'Previous research has indicated even moderate drinking may have a negative impact on brain health and people shouldn't be under the impression that only drinking to the point of hospitalisation carries a risk'.

Because dementia can have long diagnosis delays and associations can be confounded by reverse causation, they analyzed risk factors for dementia onset among patients admitted to hospitals from 2011 to 2013 who had no record of dementia from 2008 to 2010.

"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".

Prof Woodward says although the study shows a link between heavy drinking and dementia, it does not prove that alcoholism or long-term excessive consumption of alcohol causes dementia in every single patient.

The authors also noted that only the most severe cases of alcohol use disorder - ones involving hospitalization - were included in the study.

Alcohol use was also not objectively measured in the participants, one of the study's main limitations. He advocates early detection of heavy drinking.

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