Cutting out popular drink may help slash dementia risk, new ground-breaking study shows

By Staff 6 Min Read

A popular drink beloved by millions of Brits has been classified as one of the most harmful ‘modifiable’ risk factors of dementia in a ground-breaking new study by Oxford University

There are currently 900,000 people living with dementia in the UK alone – but projections warn this could rise to a staggering 1.6 million by 2040.

Contrary to popular belief, dementia is not a disease in itself and is commonly used as an umbrella term to describe a collection of symptoms that result from damage to the brain – such as Alzheimer’s Disease. The condition doesn’t just affect one’s memory and can have a severe impact on daily tasks such as speaking, moving, and understanding simple conversation.

But leading charity Alzheimer’s UK says up to 40 per cent of cases are actually preventable. Now, a groundbreaking study has revealed the most harmful risk factors we have control of – including the consumption of booze.

Scientists have previously identified a ‘weak spot’ in the brain – which can show earlier degeneration in old age. Published in Nature Communications, this new study looks into these ‘fragile regions’ by analysing the brain scans of 40,000 participants aged over 45.

Researchers examined 161 risk factors for dementia, including 15 ‘modifiable’ risk factors – aka factors that a person has some control over through lifestyle changes. These are blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, weight, alcohol consumption, smoking, depressive mood, inflammation, pollution, hearing, sleep, socialisation, diet, physical activity, and education.

The study concluded that alcohol intake, diabetes and traffic-related air pollution are the most harmful risk factors for developing dementia. More research is needed to confirm the affect of these risk factors – but experts say it could explain why certain groups are ‘more vulnerable’ to dementia – such as those who live in highly polluted areas.

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“With no treatments yet available in the UK that can stop or slow the diseases that cause dementia, there has never been a more pressing need to promote good brain health and to gain a deeper understanding on how dementia can be prevented,” said Dr Susan Mitchell of Alzheimer’s Research UK. “It’s generally accepted that up to 40 per cent of dementia cases are potentially preventable, so there is an enormous opportunity to reduce the personal and societal impact of dementia.”

This isn’t the first time alcohol and dementia have been linked. Alzheimer’s UK states that drinking alcohol could reduce the volume of the brain’s ‘white matter’ – which transmits signals between different brain regions.

“Alcohol consumption above the recommended limits (of 14 units per week) over a long period of time may shrink the parts of the brain involved in memory,” the organisation states. “Drinking more than 28 units per week can lead to a sharper decline in thinking skills as people get older.”

If you or a loved one is worried about dementia, you can get support here.

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