Chronic heavy alcohol consumption is linked to an increased risk of dementia, a new medical study has revealed.
Medical researchers investigated all adults admitted to hospital in France between 2008-2013. They looked at how many were diagnosed with dementia and who also had alcohol use disorders.
The study, published in The Lancet medical journal, found that alcohol use disorders were a major risk factor for all types of dementia – especially early-onset.
Alcohol use disorders were associated with an increased risk among men, in particular.
Of 31,624,156 adults discharged from French hospitals between 2008 and 2013, 1,109,343 were diagnosed with dementia.
Of the 57,353 (5·2%) cases of early-onset dementia, most were either alcohol-related by definition (22,338 [38·9%]) or had an additional diagnosis of alcohol use disorders (10 115 [17·6%]).
This suggests that the burden of dementia attributable to alcohol is much larger than previously thought.
The study shows that the risk for dementia onset remained unchanged after abstinence. This corroborates findings that show alcohol use exerts lifelong brain damage.
Alcohol use disorders were also associated with all other independent risk factors, suggesting that alcohol contributes in many ways to dementia.
Alcohol use disorders should be recognised as a major risk factor for all types of dementia, the study concludes. Doctors should be better aware of the role of alcohol in dementia onset, a risk factor often omitted.
Early detection, brief interventions and treatment for alcohol dependence are effective measures in primary care.
Alcohol policy measures – such as reduction of availability, increased taxation and advertising bans – have also proven to be effective. However, these measures are not popular with governments. For instance, the ban on alcohol advertisements was recently repealed in France.
So, screening for heavy drinking should be part of regular medical care, with intervention or treatment being offered, as required.
Additionally, other alcohol policies should be considered to reduce heavy drinking in the general population.
Read the full study HERE
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