Alcohol ‘major risk’ factor for early-onset dementia
Heavy drinkers are at much greater risk of developing dementia, particularly early-onset dementia, new research suggests.
The findings come from the largest study to date into the link between alcohol and dementia, which were published in the Lancet Public Health Journal and showed that heavy alcohol drinkers could be up to three times more likely to develop dementia.
It added that chronic drinking could lead to “permanent structural and functional brain damage”.
The study used information from the French National Hospital Discharge database to examine 1.1 million people who had been diagnosed with dementia between 2008 and 2013.
It showed that more than one third (38%) of 57,000 cases of early-onset dementia were directly alcohol-related. Out of these, 18% had also been diagnosed with alcohol use disorders.
Dr Michaël Schwarzinger, who led the study, said heavy drinking also increased the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, atrial fibrillation and heart failure, which could lead to vascular dementia.
The authors of the study concluded: “In summary, our findings support that alcohol use disorders should be recognised as a major risk factor for all types of dementia.
“Alcohol-related dementia should be recognised as one of the causes of early-onset dementia.
“Additionally, clinicians should be better aware of the role of alcohol use disorders in dementia onset over the lifetime, which seems to be a risk factor often omitted.”