Dementia warning: Excess of a certain activity increases your risk of developing condition
Dementia describes clusters of symptoms associated with brain decline but the most common is Alzheimer’s disease. The symptoms develop gradually over many years and eventually become more severe. Memory loss is often the first visible sign and as the condition progresses, this may be accompanied by more severe symptoms such as personality changes and hallucinations. Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, so the focus has been on finding ways to reduce the risk. According to studies and health experts, excessive drinking of alcohol could increase your risk of developing the condition.
Excessive alcohol consumption over a period of time could lead to brain damage, and this may increase a person’s risk of developing dementia.
However, drinking alcohol in moderation has not been conclusively linked to an increased dementia risk, nor has it been shown to offer significant protection against developing dementia.
As such, people who do not currently drink alcohol should not be encouraged to start as a way to reduce dementia risk.
Conversely, those who drink alcohol within the recommended guidelines are not advised to stop on the grounds of reducing the risk of dementia, although cutting back on alcohol consumption may bring other health benefits.
Heavy alcohol consumption over a long period of time can lead to brain damage, said the Alzheimer’s Society.
The site added: “People who drink heavily over a long period of time are more likely to have a reduced volume of the brain’s white matter, which helps to transmit signals between different brain regions.
“This can lead to issues with the way the brain functions.
“Long-term heavy alcohol consumption can also result in a lack of vitamin thiamine B1 and Korsakoff’s Syndrome, a memory disorder affecting short term memory.”
In a study published in BMJ, alcohol consumption and risk of dementia was investigated.
The study noted: “Incident dementia, identified through linkage to hospital, mental health services, and mortality registers until 2017.
“Measures of alcohol consumption were the mean from three assessments between 1985/88 and 1991/93, categorised as abstinence, 1-14 units/week, and >14 units/week; 17 year trajectories of alcohol consumption based on five assessments of alcohol consumption between 1985/88 and 2002/04; CAGE questionnaire for alcohol dependence assessed in 1991/93; and hospital admission for alcohol related chronic diseases between 1991 and 2017.
“The risk of dementia was increased in people who abstained from alcohol in midlife or consumed >14 units/week.”
Who carries a higher genetic risk of Alzheimer’s?
According to the Alzheimer’s Society (AS), in just over 600 families worldwide, studies reveal many close family members who are affected by Alzheimer’s disease across successive generations.
“This pattern of ‘familial clustering’ of Alzheimer’s disease suggests there is a mutation within a single gene that causes the disease,” explains the AS.
It adds: “In these cases, the mutation is being passed down in the DNA from parent to child, across several generations.”
If several of your family members have developed dementia over the generations, and particularly at a young age, you may want to seek genetic counselling for information and advice about your chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease when you’re older, advises the NHS.
Ways to reduce your risk of dementia
While getting older is undeniably the biggest risk factor for dementia, research suggests up to one in three cases of dementia are preventable.
According to Dementia UK, modifiable risk factors include:
- High blood pressure
- Lack of exercise
- Low educational attainment
- Poor physical health
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