Too much alcohol consumption can increase one’s risk of developing almost all forms of dementia, especially the early onset one, according to a recent study published in the journal Lancet Public Health in February 2108. The study authors analyzed data of over 1 million adults in French hospitals between 2008 and 2013.
All the study subjects suffered from dementia, which is characterized by the progressive degeneration of one’s cognitive abilities. The researchers used data from the French National Hospital Discharge database and found that nearly 16.5 percent of men and 4 percent of women with dementia struggled with alcohol use disorder (AUD). In other words, it was more than twice than those without dementia. To arrive at convincing results, patients with Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease were isolated from the study as these conditions can also lead to dementia.
Dr. Michael Schwarzinger, leading author and a researcher the Transitional Health Economics Network in Paris stated that the most profound finding was the burden of AUD on dementia over the lifespan of an individual. The association was particularly stronger for patients with early onset dementia, when screened under the age of 65 years. Nearly 50 percent of the subjects with early-onset dementia had an alcohol-related dementia or an additional diagnosis of AUD.
Alcohol, brain damage and more
Dr. Kostas Lyketsos, a neuropsychology professor not directly linked with this study, stated that in the past also, numerous studies have established a link between alcohol and brain damage but this study is unique as it talked about early onset of dementia and how alcohol-dependent people have a shorter life expectancy. However, he had reservations because of the large sample size and hospitalization data. The study did not include people with mild dementia as they didn’t require hospitalization but might be suffering from alcohol-related disorder.
Schwarzinger stated that there are numerous ways alcohol can cause dementia and one such way is the production of ethanol and its by-product acetaldehyde. It is toxic to the brain leading to long-term structural and functional brain damage. Heavy alcohol intake can also cause hepatic encephalopathy in which the liver stops functioning and there is excessive accumulation of ammonia in the blood, which can result in poor brain functioning.
Heavy drinking is also associated with cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure and diabetes. The researchers also found a correlation between heavy drinking and less education, smoking and depression. All these factors were independent risk factors for dementia. Men were more strongly affected by dementia however, when the factors were not controlled, the risk was found to be equivalent for both men and women. The risk compounded by 4.7 times in men and 4.3 times in women. Even when the factors were controlled, heavy drinking increased the dementia risk by three times in both men and women.
It was also found that in comparison to women, men were more likely to develop early onset dementia at a younger age, which could be due to their poor lifestyle and heavy consumption. Though the study analyzed data only from France, Schwarzinger cautioned that even then, the findings must be taken seriously because “While the rate of alcohol use disorders is lower in the USA, it remains substantial enough to be considered major risk factor for dementia onset.”
Road to recovery
Heavy drinking is associated with a host of negative health outcomes like anemia, which can lead to fatigue and shortness of breath. It is also associated with cancers of mouth, larynx, pharynx, esophagus, liver, breast and colorectal region. It might also manifest as cardiomyopathy and atrial fibrillation. Heavy drinking can also lead to depression, dementia and seizures. It is thus, indispensable to seek treatment and walk the path of sobriety. One of the preliminary steps of weaning off alcohol effects is detoxification whereby, the body gets rid of the toxins and prepares for further phases of recovery.
One of the leading alcohol detox centers in California, Sovereign Health, provides evidence-based treatment for alcohol addiction by adopting a holistic treatment approach that combines detox (medical and natural) and therapy or counseling sessions, allowing patients to recover quickly and completely.
If you or someone you know is abusing alcohol, you can get connected to our alcohol detox clinics in California. For more information, give us a call at our 24/7 helpline number 855-682-0103 or chat online with a treatment advisor now.