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Cut Down The Booze To Save Your Memory: Study Links Chronic Drinking To Early-Onset Dementia

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Alcohol disorders could increase a person's risk of having early-onset dementia. Researchers propose that screening for heavy drinking should be part of regular medical care.

A new study that conducted a retroactive analysis of patients in France showed that alcohol disorders and heavy consumption of alcohol could lead to all forms of dementia, particularly early-onset dementia that affect individuals below 65 years of age.

Those who are at risk of dementia are people consuming more than a couple of alcoholic drinks a day.

Direct Link Of Heavy Drinking to Dementia

The study, considered to be the largest in terms of database analyzed, thoroughly looked at the records of more than 30 million people that were admitted to the French National Hospital from the period of 2008 to 2013.

The main source of the research was the discharge records of the patients.

The study results suggest that those with a history of alcohol use disorders had a threefold increased risk for dementia and over half of those with early-onset dementia had a history of drinking problems.

"The primary exposure was alcohol use disorders and the main outcome was dementia," says study lead author Michael Schwarzinger, MD of the Translational Health Economics Network in Paris.

Researchers describe alcohol use disorders as the chronic harmful use of alcohol or alcohol dependence.

The dataset showed that out of the 31.6 million adults discharged from French hospitals, more than 1.3 million were diagnosed with dementia. Incidents of women with dementia are lower than males up to 80 years old.

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.

How Alcohol Damages The Brain

Researchers said cutting down on alcohol consumption could be beneficial to the brain.

The research enumerated several ways that alcohol and heavy drinking can damage the brain.

Ethanol and its byproduct acetaldehyde have a direct neurotoxic effect on the brain that can lead to permanent structural and functional brain damage. Thiamine deficiency due to high alcohol content in the body can lead to Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome.

Heavy alcohol use is also a risk factor for other neurological conditions such as epilepsy, head injury, and hepatic encephalopathy in patients with cirrhotic liver disease.

Alcohol drinking is also linked to high blood pressure, stroke, atrial fibrillation, and heart failure.

Heavy alcohol use can also lead to a condition called hepatic encephalopathy, characterized by a loss of brain function due to increases of ammonia in the blood caused by liver damage.

Lastly, there is a link between heavy drinking, tobacco smoking, depression, and low educational attainment, which researchers say, are possible risk factors for dementia.

According to the researchers, dementia is a prevalent condition affects five to seven percent of the population in France aged 60 years and older. Globally, dementia is the leading cause of disability in people aged 60 years and older.

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