Medicine

Chronic heavy drinking linked to increased risk of dementia

Chronic heavy drinking linked to increased risk of dementia

Alcohol use disorders remained associated with an increased risk for vascular and other dementias even after excluding alcohol-related brain damage, according to the findings.

Drink-related disorders were the lifestyle habit...

Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia are said to be premature before the age of 65.

As a result of the strong association, the authors suggest that screening, brief interventions for heavy drinking and treatment for alcohol use disorders should be implemented to reduce the alcohol-attributable burden of dementia.

In the study, there were 57,000 cases of early-onset dementia, 39% of which were alcohol-related by definition, while 17.6% had an additional diagnosis of alcohol-use disorders.

Heavy drinking triples the risk of dementia and most early cases of the disorder are caused by alcohol misuse, the largest study of its kind concluded.

Chronic heavy drinking is defined as consuming more than 60g of pure alcohol a day for men - equivalent to around six standard drinks per day on average - and more than 40g per day for women - around four standard drinks per day.

Overall, alcohol abuse was associated with a three times greater risk of all types of dementia and was the "strongest modifiable risk factor" for its onset.

For the new study, researchers combed the medical records of more than one million adults in France diagnosed with dementia from 2008 to 2013.

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During the same period, there were 945,512 people - more than 85 per cent of them alcohol dependent - diagnosed with alcohol use disorders.

Medical chiefs in the United Kingdom recommend the consumption of no more than 14 units a week, equivalent to seven pints of average-strength lager or nine 125ml glasses of average-strength wine. This will include almost 650 people in Scotland diagnosed with early-onset dementia before they turn 65.

Lead researcher Dr Michaël Schwarzinger, of Translational Health Economics Network in Paris, said: "Heavy drinking is not a small problem". The authors also noted that only the most severe cases of alcohol use disorder - ones involving hospitalization - were included in the study.

He also identified alcohol use disorders with other independent risk factors such as tobacco smoking, lower education, depression, and hearing loss.

The research, published in The Lancet, comes after a study past year claimed one in three cases of dementia could be prevented if the risks of becoming a sufferer were tackled.

Professor Clive Ballard, of the University of Exeter Medical School, called the study "immensely important", adding: "We should move forward with clear public health messages on the relationship between both alcohol use disorders and alcohol consumption and dementia".

He continued: "Alcohol use disorders also increase the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, atrial fibrillation, and heart failure, which may in turn increase the risk of vascular dementia".

Dr Sara Imarisio, of Alzheimer's Research UK, said: "Taking steps to curb the amount you consume can have far-reaching health benefits".


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