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Heavy drinking and dementia – what’s the link?

Ask anyone who has cared for an elderly person suffering from dementia if it is a hard job, and the answer is likely to be “one of the most difficult things I have ever done.”

Carers of people with dementia – usually a family member of the sufferer – often talk about the guilt they feel over wanting to look after someone they love as best they can, while simultaneously finding the responsibility a difficult burden to bear (as the person with dementia slowly declines to a point where they don’t know who they are, where they are, or even who their carer is).

“I looked after my father in the last year of his life, and could not believe how hard it was caring for another person,” explains William*. “As a carer, you basically have to become two people: the person you are and the person you’re caring for, as they gradually lose mental capacity, and can do fewer things for themselves.

“I would advise anyone who drinks a lot to seriously reconsider their behaviour, and to take immediate steps to cut down on their regular alcohol intake. Alcohol abuse can cause a lot of illnesses and diseases, many of which can be an underlying cause of dementia later in life.”

About dementia

  • In the UK, approximately 800,000 people have dementia
  • Dementia mainly affects people over the age of 65
  • The chances of developing dementia increase with age
  • Some people have a genetic predisposition to the disease
  • People with dementia can suffer from memory and orientation problems, as well as finding it difficult to judge distances, concentrate, plan, organise, make decisions and communicate clearly

Although there is no cure for dementia, steps can be taken that can reduce the likelihood of developing the condition:

  • Eating a balanced diet
  • Exercising regularly
  • Stopping smoking
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Drinking in moderation, or ideally, not at all

Source: Alzheimer’s Society

About dementia and alcohol

As we approach and then reach mid-life our bodies can change considerably, making us more vulnerable to suffering short and long-term health problems. Although you can be unlucky and develop dementia even if you have always maintained a healthy lifestyle and never drank or smoked, dementia can often occur as a result of a person having a contributory health condition or disease (obesity, heart disease, cancer, liver cirrhosis…) for which alcoholism is a common cause.

So, by reducing your regular alcohol consumption level to a minimum – or by cutting out alcohol completely – you are taking great strides towards avoiding a wide range of health problems, which in turn could lead to you avoiding dementia in old age.

In a nutshell: it’s all linked

*All names have been changed.

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