Friday 30 September 2016

Go teetotal to reduce dementia risks

Advice on prevention of dementia warns 'there is no safe level of alcohol consumption' which does not increase risk of the condition

Published 21/10/2015 | 07:22

 Middle-aged people should go teetotal to reduce the risk of dementia, health watchdogs have said.

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Guidance from the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence on how to protect against the condition suggests that even drinking within Government safe limits can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

The new advice says the public should be advised that there is “no safe level of alcohol consumption” and calls on GPs to tackle the middle-aged about lifestyle behaviours linked to the condition.

Research has found that one third of all Alzheimer’s disease cases can be linked to lifestyle factors –such as exercise, obesity, smoking and alcohol.

Current Government advice – which is under review - suggests women can drink two to three units of alcohol a day (one 175ml glass of wine) and men three units, without compromising their health.

The new Nice advice says drinking any alcohol can increase the risk of dementia, disability and frailty, advising GPs that people should be encouraged “to reduce the amount they drink as much as possible.”

It suggests Britain’s “social norms” when it comes to alcohol “need to be challenged”.

“Drinking alcohol daily at home has become normal for some people, and this poses a threat to health,” the guidance says.

It also says people should not see middle-age or retirement as a time to slow down their pace of life.

“Reducing activity –'slowing down' and having ' earned a rest' – are often seen as an expected part of growing older,” it says, suggesting that health is better protected by a more active lifestyle in mid-life.

The recommendations for the NHS and local councils also calls for sweeping changes in the way public spaces are governed, in a bid to reduce rates of smoking.

It calls for smoke-free policies to be expanded to cover public parks and open-air markets.

'Generally speaking, like a lot of men of my generation, I drank less in my fifties than I did in my forties and, from what I can remember of my student days, a fraction of what I did in my twenties''Generally speaking, like a lot of men of my generation, I drank less in my fifties than I did in my forties and, from what I can remember of my student days, a fraction of what I did in my twenties'  Photo: Image Source/Alamy

Professor John Britton, professor of epidemiology, University of Nottingham and Nice guideline development group chairman said: "It is well known that smoking, too much alcohol, inactivity and being overweight is bad for our health, but many people don't realise that these things can also increase the likelihood of developing dementia and other causes of poor quality of life in older age.

"The evidence we looked at suggested that people can prevent these outcomes by making simple changes in life -- stopping smoking, cutting alcohol, being more active and losing weight," he said. "Even small but regular changes - such as climbing the stairs instead of using an escalator - can have significant effects. "

The guidance stresses that not all risks can be eliminated, given some will have a genetic susceptibility to the condition, and warns against suggesting those who develop it are “at fault”.

Hilary Evans, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “There is now mounting evidence that a healthy lifestyle from mid-life can help to reduce the risk of dementia in later life, but public understanding of the risk factors for dementia is still low.”

“While we don’t yet have sure-fire ways to prevent dementia, evidence suggests that eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, not smoking, not drinking to excess and keeping weight, blood pressure and cholesterol in check can all help lower the risk of the condition,” she said.

Jeremy Hughes, chief executive at Alzheimer’s Society said: “These guidelines are a hugely welcome shift in public health thinking, highlighting the need for a change in mid-life behaviour and lifestyle choices to reduce the risk of dementia.

"This advice needs to be extended to encourage those who go on to develop dementia to live well and prevent the condition deteriorating more quickly.”

He said other factors – such as stress depression and social isolation could also increase the risk of dementia.

Last year new figures revealed twice as many cases of early dementia as was thought.

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