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Alcoholism in Midlife Increases Risk of Dementia Later

Midlife alcohol consumption (not just alcoholism) is related to the risk of dementia assessed as much as 20 years later, according to a study reported in the December 2010 issue of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.  In particular, individuals who consume large amounts of alcohol are at a greater risk for cognitive impairment later on in life.

Not only was total alcohol consumption analyzed but also drinking patterns. The findings suggest that drinking large amounts at a single occasion, i.e. binge drinking, at least once a month was an independent factor that doubled the risk of cognitive impairment regardless of whether total alcohol consumption was controlled. The same was found for heavy drinking that resulted in passing out. Therefore, the study reports that not only is the amount of alcohol consumed significant in affecting the risks for cognitive impairment, but also the patterns by which alcohol is consumed.

The findings of the study are important in that changes or early symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease (the most common form of dementia) can begin as early as two to three decades prior to clinical manifestation of the disease. This means that identifying early risk factors can be imperative for prevention and treatment.

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