Alcohol use biggest preventable risk factor for dementia onset

Genetics remains the main cause of dementia in the overwhelming majority of cases but alcohol is the biggest lifestyle risk

Heavy drinking may be a major risk factor for early-onset dementia, new research suggests.

Lead researcher Dr Michael Schwarzinger, from the Translational Health Economics Network in France, said: "A variety of measures are needed, such as reducing availability, increasing taxation, and banning advertising and marketing of alcohol, alongside early detection and treatment of alcohol use disorders".

The French nationwide study involved more than a million hospital patients discharged with dementia and alcohol-related brain damage between 2008 and 2013.

Alcohol disorders could increase a person's risk of having early-onset dementia.

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

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".

"Heavy drinking is also strongly associated with vascular risk factors such as high blood pressure or diabetes mellitus as well as cardiovascular diseases", Schwarzinger added.

"We should move forward with clear public health messages about the relationship between both alcohol-use disorders and alcohol consumption, respectively, and dementia", he commented in the same journal.

The authors also mentioned that on average, alcohol use disorders could reduce life expectancy by about 20 years, and dementia among the prominent causes of death for these people.

Only the most severe cases of alcohol use disorder - ones involving hospitalization - were included in the study.

Killian Welch from the University of Edinburgh said in a statement that, "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". "It is very striking that for people who were heavy drinkers and had at least a period of abstinence, the level of risk of dementia is about the same", he pointed out. What they found was the 57 per cent of these cases were related to chronic heavy drinking. 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.

Excessive drinking could lead to early onsest dementia, a new study found.


"We should certainly avoid heavy consumption of alcohol as it puts your mental and physical health at risk and it increases your risk of injury", says Prof Woodward.

Alcohol-use disorders refer to "the chronic harmful use of alcohol or alcohol dependence", the researchers wrote. "There could be a gender effect on who goes to the hospital with dementia".

Though the study had a very large sample size, it looked at individuals in only one country, making it hard to generalize across cultures.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines chronic heavy drinking as consuming more than 60 grams pure alcohol on average per day for men (4-5 Canadian standard drinks) and 40 grams (about 3 standard drinks) per day for women.

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