Is over consumption of alcohol linked to dementia?

Australians aged between 60 and 69 are drinking more than ever, with fears excessive drinking can lead to serious illnesses such as dementia, brain damage and liver disease.

(For further information on the top 10 signs of dementia, click here.)

While Australians overall are drinking less, it is the under 30’s which are driving the fall while Baby Boomers aged between 60 and 69 have increased their alcohol intake by six per cent.

The research comes from the University of New South Wales, La Trobe University and the Burnet Institute in Melbourne, published online in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) advises healthy men and women to drink no more than two standard drinks on any day in order to reduce the lifetime risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury. For occasion drinking, the NHMRC recommends no more than four standard drinks to reduce the risk of alcohol-related injury.

Our British cousins are experiencing the same phenomenon which shows that dangerously high levels of alcohol consumption by over 65’s are leading to growing numbers being hospitalised, adding to pressures on their National Health Service (NHS).

Dr Tony Rao, Britain’s leading expert on older people’s drinking, says: “The number of older people drinking unsafely and unhealthily is rising at an alarming rate, putting their health at risk and further strain on NHS services.”

The Baby Boomers’ drinking problem is causing such concern among UK doctors that the Royal College of Psychiatrists warned that excessive consumption is leading not just to physical illness but also to mental ill-health, including depression, anxiety, self-harm and even suicide, stressing that, “although the damage caused by alcohol to the brain may be less well-documented than alcohol-related liver disease, bowel disease or circulatory problems, alcohol-related brain damage nevertheless devastates lives and older people are particularly at risk.”

It is believed that retirement can sometimes be the trigger for increased levels of drinking. People have more time on their hands, they can feel lonely and without purpose, or perhaps the opposite – they have a large social group and are drinking at lunch and dinner.

When the body ages, it becomes less effective at metabolising alcohol. This means alcohol has a more potent impact on an older person compared to a younger person consuming the same amount of alcohol. In turn, this increases the likelihood of injury and falls among older people who drink.

Older adults are more likely to be taking a range of medications which can interact with alcohol and cause an adverse drug event.

Also, older people are likely to experience health conditions that can be exacerbated by the effects of alcohol. For example, high blood pressure and heart disease can be more difficult to treat when a person drinks alcohol. In addition, alcohol is a known carcinogen. As such, it is recommended that cancer survivors abstain from alcohol and that alcohol consumption be minimised to avoid the risk of developing various forms of cancer.

Further information on the study can be found here

If you or a loved one are concerned about dementia, here’s another informative blog article on the top 10 signs of dementia

And, for further information on how to communicate with a person with dementia, here’s another blog post you can read. 

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About Oxley Home Care

Oxley Home Care, established in 2006, is a family owned Sydney company and an approved government provider for aged care services, specialising in dementia care.

For the last decade, Oxley Home Care’s staff have been providing Dementia Care, Private Care, Home Care, Nursing and Allied Health to enable people – regardless of their age – to live a quality life in their own home. Oxley Home Care is an Approved Provider of Home Care Packages funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing and holds an allocation of Home Care Packages. These packages are designed to provide assistance to the elderly to remain living at home.

To gain access to a Home Care Package, the Government requires that you undergo a comprehensive assessment by your Local Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT). To arrange the assessment contact My Aged Care on 1800 200 422 or visit the My Aged Care website.

For more information, please feel free to call Oxley Home Care on 1300 993 591.

Gilian Douglass

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