Health Care

Alcohol may be major factor in early-onset dementia, study suggests

Alcohol may be major factor in early-onset dementia, study suggests”

Research based on those hospitalised for alcohol abuse showed 39 per cent of early-onset dementia cases were attributable to drinking-related brain damage.

Dr Sara Imarisio, head of research at Alzheimer's Research UK, said: "As this study only looked at the people who had been admitted to hospital due to chronic heavy drinking, it doesn't reveal the full extent of the link between alcohol use and dementia risk".

They urged Global Positioning System to closely question all patients about their drinking habits, and do more to persuade those drinking above recommended levels to cut down.

The study looked at more than one million cases of diagnosed dementia among adults over the age of 20 in France between 2008 and 2013.

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.

He added that smoking, depression and low educational attainment, which are also connected to chronic drinking, were also risk factors in developing dementia.

"The link between dementia and alcohol use likely a result of alcohol leading to permanent structural and functional brain damage", said lead author Michael Schwarzinger, a scientist at the Translational Health Economics Network in Paris.

Over that same time period, 945,512 people were diagnosed with alcohol use disorders, the vast majority of which suffered from alcohol dependency.

Advice on alcohol and dementia has been confusing.

Although women make up the majority of all dementia patients, the study found that almost two thirds (64.9 per cent) of all early-onset dementia patients were men. It suggests that alcohol use disorders may contribute in many ways to the risk of dementia.

In light of their findings, the researchers recommendthe introduction of screening, brief interventions and treatment for alcohol use disorders to reduce its impact on dementia. This could mean that, because of ongoing stigma regarding the reporting of alcohol-use disorders, the association between chronic heavy drinking and dementia may be even stronger.

"The overall HR for onset of all types of dementia was above 3.3, and for vascular and other dementia remained above 2.3 for both sexes", the researchers wrote. "The association with alcohol use disorders was especially important in those with early-onset dementia, with most patients having alcohol-related brain damage or an additional diagnosis of alcohol use disorders".

Clive Ballard, professor at the University of Exeter Medical School in Britain, described the findings as "immensely important". But Schwarzinger said they were small studies and he personally would question whether that can be so. Future work needs to clarify whether there is a similar association between consumption volume and dementia, or whether associated problems and medical and psychiatric comorbidity drive the risk.

"This large study provides further evidence that heavy drinking is associated with a greatly elevated risk of cognitive impairment, and that this can occur at a relatively young age", observed Killian Welch, PhD, of the University of Edinburgh, who was not involved in the study. Also, alcohol use disorders may have been underreported, especially when compared with prevalence estimates of 16.7% for men and 5.4% for women in France.

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