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Alcohol and dementia

Human head with gears. Head thinking. Flat illustrationThe term ‘dementia’ is used to describe a set of brain disorder symptoms like memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language.

Regular excessive drinking is thought to increase the risk of developing the most common forms of dementia, like Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia, although the exact relationship between alcohol and dementia is still debated.

Drinking alcohol earlier in life my significantly increase the risk of developing early-onset dementia (before the age of 65). Frequent drinking in young adults is the biggest risk factor for men who develop early-onset dementia, more so than having a family history of dementia, using other types of drugs or suffering from any other health condition.

Prolonged heavy alcohol misuse can also result in the development of ‘alcohol-related dementia’ and Wernicke-Korsakoff’s syndrome, an alcohol-related brain disorder that may not strictly speaking be dementia, but has similar symptoms.

Unlike other dementias, which usually get progressively worse, partial recovery from both of these conditions is possible by stopping drinking alcohol, adopting a healthy diet and taking large doses of thiamine (vitamin B1).

Our factsheet has more detailed information about alcohol and dementia.

Find out more about how alcohol affects your health.

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