Alcohol use biggest preventable risk factor for dementia onset

This indicated the numerous ways in which alcohol use disorders contribute to the risk of dementia.

"The most novel result is the large contribution of alcohol-use disorders to the burden of dementia over the lifespan", said Dr. Michael Schwarzinger, a researcher at the Transitional Health Economics Network in Paris and a leading author of the study. Alcohol use disorder, also referred to as alcoholism, describes a pattern of drinking which has become uncontrolled and problematic.

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

"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", said Dr. Jurgen Rehm, study co-author and director of the CAMH Institute for Mental Health Policy Research, in a release from the Center for Addiction and Mental Health.

Alcohol use disorders are also associated with high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and heart failure, which may in turn increase the risk of vascular dementia, he said in a statement.

Alcohol-use disorders refer to "the chronic harmful use of alcohol or alcohol dependence", the researchers wrote.

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They defined dementia as any discharge diagnosis of or related to dementia, and early-onset as an initial dementia diagnosis before age 65.

To pinpoint the direct link between heavy alcohol drinking to dementia, the researchers excluded patients with other neurological disorders such as Parkinson's and Huntington's, which can both lead to dementia.

Over 6% of men and 1.5% of women discharged from hospital had alcohol use disorders, compared to 16.5 % of men and 4% of women with dementia.

Now, a new study claims to have found another worrying link between the bottle and the brain.

There was a significant gender split for early-onset dementia.

"Lastly, heavy drinking is associated with tobacco smoking, depression, and low educational attainment, which are also risk factors for dementia".

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"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. We know this was wrong, but that it turned out to be the most important risk factor for all kinds of dementia in controlled analyses [and] it was surprising".

What is alcohol use disorder?

But several issues need to be addressed, noted Clive Ballard, MD, and Iain Lang, DPhil, of the University of Exeter Medical School in England, in an accompanying editorial.

The latest analysis reinforces how simple lifestyle changes can help beat a condition that in 2016 killed nearly 63,000 people in England and Wales, 12 per cent of all deaths.

"But people who are drinking moderate amounts of alcohol shouldn't cut back because of this study".

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

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Schwarzinger disclosed being the founder of THEN, which is supported by AbbVie, Gilead, Merck, and Novartis.

  • Jermaine Castillo