The Lancet Commission on dementia prevention, intervention and care has added alcohol use to their list of modifiable risk factors which could delay or prevent dementia.

The report led by 28 world-leading dementia experts builds on the nine risk factors identified in 2017 and provides an up-to-date analysis of the best evidence on the prevention of dementia. The report adds three new risk factors including alcohol consumption to the list of dementia risk factors bringing the total to 12. According to the report the potential to prevent cases of dementia is high.

Worldwide, about 50 million people live with dementia. This figure is set to rise to 152 million by 2050, rising specifically in low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs), where about two-thirds of all dementia cases are reported from. The estimated cost of dementia, globally is €1 trillion annually.

According to the report 1% of dementia cases translating to roughly 500,000 cases are attributable to alcohol consumption.

Dementia Cases Due to Alcohol
500,000 dementia cases are attributable to alcohol consumption, amounting to 1% of all dementia cases globally.

It is in the power of policy makers to take measures to prevent dementia by reducing the risk factors, such as alcohol. LMICs and vulnerable populations, including Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities who are disproportionately affected by dementia stand to benefit the most from such interventions.

Our report shows it is within the power of policy-makers and individuals to prevent and delay a significant proportion of dementia, with opportunities to make an impact at each stage of a person’s life,” said Professor Gill Livingston, Lead Author of the Study from University College London, UK, as per The Irish Times.

Professor Gill Livingston, University College London, UK and the Lead Author of The Lancet Commission on dementia prevention, intervention and care,

The report stresses that improving childhood education is important in addressing all risk factors. Alcohol prevention interventions early on could reduce both early-onset and later in life dementia.

All 12 of the preventable risk factors presented in the report account for a total 40% of dementia cases globally. The complete list of risk factors presented in the report is as follows:

  • less education,
  • hypertension,
  • hearing impairment,
  • smoking,
  • obesity,
  • depression,
  • physical inactivity,
  • diabetes,
  • low social contact,
  • heavy alcohol consumption (characterized as over 21 units of alcohol per week),
  • traumatic brain injury (TBI), and
  • air pollution.

The experts focus on a holistic approach in the treatment and care of dementia. As people with dementia have complex problems in many domains treatment and care needs to be individualized to the patient, taking also into consideration their family carers.

The report advocates to be ambitious with prevention of dementia. It is both about policies and individuals. Dementia prevention action requires both public health programmes and individually tailored interventions. In addition to population strategies, policy should address high-risk groups to increase social, cognitive, and physical activity; and vascular health.

It is also necessary to tackle inequality for dementia prevention. Alcohol harm is also known to affect people unequally. Many risk factors of dementia including alcohol harm are clustered around inequalities, which occur particularly in Black, Asian, and minority ethnic groups and in vulnerable populations. Further two-thirds of dementia patients live in LMICs.