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Key Facts About Alcohol Dementia

Michael Picco
Michael Picco

Technical Director - Energy & Environment

If you or a loved one have noticed changes in your memory or thinking as you’ve grown older, this could reflect typical changes that occur with aging. In some cases though, it might suggest something more, such as the onset of dementia. There are some lifestyle behaviours with enough evidence to show that changing them will reduce your risk of dementia. A lifelong approach to good health is the best way to lower your risk of dementia. Evidence for human consumption of alcohol dates back over 10,000 years.

For this reason, the connection between alcohol and dementia in the elderly may be a hard obstacle to overcome. Talk with your loved one’s doctor about medical and therapeutic interventions. Alcohol-related dementia isn’t generally a concern for people who drink rarely or in moderation. In fact, many studies show that mild to moderate alcohol use (one to three drinks a day) may reduce the likelihood of dementia, according to a systematic review published in the journal Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment.

Getting an Alcoholic Dementia Diagnosis

The most common treatment for Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is high doses of thiamine. However, it’s very important for individuals to start thiamine replacement before beginning nutritional replenishment. One of the main misconceptions about alcohol use that people should know about is the connection between drinking and dementia. Below we will explain how these two experiences are connected, and arm you with valuable information. Seeking consultations with healthcare professionals or addiction treatment, including neurologists and psychiatrists, ensures a comprehensive understanding of the individual’s condition. For example, a standard drink in the United Kingdom contains a relatively low 8 grams of alcohol, compared with 10 grams in Australia, 14 grams in the US, and 19.75 grams in Japan [30].

  • Drinking too much alcohol over a long period of time can lead to a condition known as Wernicke’s Encephalopathy, or Wernickle’s Syndrome.
  • The primary risk factor for alcohol-related dementia (ARD) is unhealthy alcohol use.
  • People with early-stage dementia may also find it more difficult to make complex decisions and express themselves.
  • Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome occurs due to a deficiency in vitamin B1 or thiamine.
  • Dr. Moawad regularly writes and edits health and career content for medical books and publications.

Read our advice on supporting a person with dementia who has depression, anxiety or apathy. Wernicke encephalopathy causes an acute confusional state in the person. The results will help determine whether you or your loved one has AUD, dementia, or both. Alcoholic dementia can occur at any age, and it is expected to worsen rapidly (within a few years) after the initial symptoms begin.

Difficulties with reasoning and problem-solving

You can find out how many units are in an alcoholic drink by reading the label. The NHS recommends not drinking more than 14 units of alcohol each week. This should ideally be spread over three or more days because ‘binge-drinking’ is particularly harmful to the brain.

Does Your Loved One Have Alcohol-Related Dementia?

If you think you may be experiencing alcohol-related dementia, talk with a healthcare professional. The brains of participants who were drinking three units of alcohol a day over the previous month alcohol and dementia had reductions in both white and gray matter, making their brains appear three and a half years older. For reference, one unit is considered a half pint of beer or a small glass of wine.

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