Dementia symptoms: Drinking more alcohol as you get older could be a sign – study

Steve Thompson recalls signs of his early-onset dementia

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While warning signs including memory problems or changes in mood are probably the best known signs of the brain condition, dementia can also present with certain lifestyle habits such as drinking. This is the finding of a study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Even though lifetime alcohol abuse is a well-known risk factor for dementia, starting to abuse alcohol later in life could also play a role.

The research explains that if a person begins to drink a problematic amount of alcohol as they get older, it could be a sign of a dementia onset.

The research team looked at 1,519 patients, diagnosed with neurological issues, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

They found that 2.2 percent of the participants were dealing with so-called late-onset alcohol abuse.

The researchers define this as an unhealthy amount of drinking after the age of 40.

This finding led the team to linking alcohol abuse to certain neurological conditions.

Georges Naasan, the senior author of the study said: “What we found is that alcohol abuse may be the first sign of an underlying neurological condition when it presents late in life.

“While it is important to identify social factors that may lead to alcohol abuse, such as retirement, loneliness, or loss of income/loved ones/housing, our data should implore health care workers to avoid systematically attributing alcohol abuse to these aspects.”

The study concludes that alcohol abuse onset in an older age should prompt a clinical investigation into the possibility of an underlying neurodegenerative process.

This is especially important as the delay in diagnosis and treatment may increase patient and caregiver burden, the research reports.

However, the results need to be interpreted with caution due to the limitations.

Monika Wassermann, Medical Director at Olio Lusso, added: “According to the study by the IOS press, late alcohol abuse is more common in patients with behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia(bvFTD).”

This type is considered “uncommon” and triggers problems with behaviour and language, according to the NHS.

Frontotemporal dementia targets the front and sides of your brain, also known as the frontal and temporal lobes.

Wassermann continued: “The study hypothesized that this neurodegenerative disorder harms parts of the brain responsible for reward processing, impulse control, and behaviour, contributing to alcohol abuse.”

She explained that this sign can crop as early as the age of 40 years in patients with bvFTD.

And the latest alcohol abuse can occur is recorded at 65 years, Wasserman added.

What are the early signs of dementia?

The medical director shared that other warning signs may include:

  • Reckless spending
  • Loss of initiative
  • Loss of interest in personal hygiene
  • Reduced interest in personal relationships, work, and hobbies
  • Hoarding
  • Binge eating
  • Mood changes.

Although there is currently no cure for dementia, getting a prompt diagnosis could help slow down the progress in some cases.

That’s why it’s important to contact your GP if you start experiencing the signs of dementia.

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