Alcohol Seems to Be a Big Contributor to the Development of Dementia
Broadly speaking, the term dementia does not refer to one specific disease. Rather, it is an umbrella name for a brain condition that causes depreciation in a person's thinking and memory ability. The long-term effect is a disruption of normal functioning. This may include emotional instability, speech and coordination problems, and reduced motivation to take up simple tasks.
The debate on alcohol effects has been wide-ranging for quite a long time, but new findings of a recent study will be most sobering. Recent research by the University of Toronto has revealed that alcohol use plays a much greater role in causing dementia than previously thought.
The University's Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) report has stated that this is the single largest self-controllable factor that contributes to brain diseases that may affect normal functioning. Alcohol is especially responsible for the occurrence of dementia before old age sets in.
The research that involved over a million subjects (by far, the largest population in a study of this kind) set out to find the correlation between alcohol disorders and dementia. While the researchers had theorized that there was a direct relation, even they were astounded by its extent.
The health records of dementia patients across the genders and age groups reveal that most have an alcohol-related disorder. Some, like head injuries, are contributing directly to brain problems. Others, like liver disease, are indirect players.
In the study report, CAMH's vice president Dr. Bruce Pollock expresses regret that the effects of alcohol consumption on dementia are often detected when brain damage has gone too far. Dr. Pollock is of the opinion that the tackling of alcohol-related problems needs to be done much earlier. Putting such problems under proper management will go a long way towards protecting the affected people from brain damage.
Is there any good news related to this finding?
Yes. The fact that alcoholism has been listed as the most prevalent controllable contributor to dementia is actually a silver lining to the dementia cloud. It is another way of saying: “keeping your bottle in control significantly reduces your risk of suffering from early dementia.”
It might be easier said than done, but the bottom line remains that it is a risk that is in a person's hands. The general campaign for moderate drinking has been around for quite a while; now the new findings will serve like a shot in its arm.
Of note, too, is that this is not a study showing a direct link between drinking and dementia. So long as indulging in drinking does not hit problem levels, drinkers should be rather safe. That said, it is important to always remember that the line between moderate and problematic drinking remains very thin.