Dementia: Doctor outlines changes to help prevent disease
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Dr Ioannis Liakas, who is Medical Director at Vie Aesthetics, explained why people should consider lowering their alcohol intake for longer than Dry January. This popular drink, which represents a staple of every celebration, could be boosting your dementia risk. So, if you feel fed up with bubbly and mulled wine after the festive season, here’s a good reason to drop it.
The negative effect of alcohol on our bodies and overall health has been firmly established by plenty of research.
But how much of it can lead to dementia is often debated. Dr Ioannis Liakas provides an answer.
The doctor said: “Getting carried away and drinking excessively over a long period of time is increasing our risk of developing dementia.
“Alcohol in high quantities is toxic to the brain and as result, it leads to the reduction of the white matter, the substance of the brain that is needed for connections to be established and to function between the various regions in the brain.”
How much alcohol is too much?
Dr Liakas explained that research suggests that having over 14 units of alcohol a week can increase your risk of developing dementia by 17 percent.
To illustrate this, 14 units represents around the same amount as five pints of beer or seven glasses of wine.
This high amount of alcohol can be toxic to our brain cells.
“Binge drinking can have the same devastating effects to the brain as the 14 units limit weekly is very easily surpassed,” he added.
Research hasn’t only narrowed down alcohol to pose a higher risk for developing dementia but it has also noticed something else.
The doctor said: “Seventy-eight percent of those who drink excessively were found to have a form of dementia or other related brain pathology.”
What does alcohol exactly do to our brain?
Dr Liakas said it’s “too simplistic” to say the popular drink kills our brain cells.
Instead, he noted: “Alcohol reduces the size of neurones, the cells in the brain needed to establish communication between the various regions in the brain.
“Studies among excessive drinkers have also established that alcohol in excess reduces the size of the hippocampus.
“This is the area in the brain where all our memories are formed and stored.
“Overall, alcohol in people who drink excessively has an impact on the overall volume of the brain, causing brain atrophy.”
Should I ditch alcohol completely?
Dr Liakas explained that if you’re already at a high risk of dementia, there’s no evidence that ditching alcohol will prevent it.
However, you definitely shouldn’t drink “excessive” amounts, he adds.
What else can I do to lower my risk?
The doctor recommends what every health expert would – a healthy lifestyle.
“Smoking cessation, diet and regular exercise, blood pressure control and blood sugar control seem to be the pillars to health and longevity for your body and your brain,” he said.
But he also added some bad news: “It seems that the strongest risk factor to develop dementia is our genetics.
“Preventing dementia completely seems, in current medical terms, not possible. However, this is not to say that there is nothing we can do to decrease the risks.”
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