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Blood pressure news
Alcohol raises dementia risk
Doctors fear a future dementia epidemic due to Britain's binge drinking of alcohol. Regularly drinking more than the recommended limits of alcohol raises blood pressure and the risk of dementia such as Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia.
About alcohol, high blood pressure and dementia:
- Binge drinking is linked to a higher risk of developing dementia
- The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer's disease
- Drinking more than the recommended limits of alcohol (heavy drinking) may cause up to one-quarter of all cases of Alzheimer's disease
- Vascular dementia is another form of dementia, caused by problems with the blood vessels supplying the brain
- High blood pressure can cause vascular dementia
- Heavy drinking can lead to high blood pressure
- Drinking within safe limits may actually be beneficial, but heavy drinking and binge drinking are dangerous to health
Why is alcohol, binge drinking and dementia in the news?
Two UK doctors have spoken out about their growing concern that Britain's drinking culture could lead to an epidemic of dementia in the future.
Writing in the British Journal of Pyschiatry, they explain that excessive alcohol consumption has been linked to damage to brain tissue and dementia. Drinking more than the recommended limits of alcohol (heavy drinking) may cause up to one-quarter of all cases of Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of dementia.
They are concerned that acceptance of binge drinking and regular heavy drinking (drinking more than the UK recommended weekly limits) will lead to generations of Britons with far higher levels of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. Yet, they point out, alcohol prices have halved in Britain over the past 40 years, while alcohol consumption has doubled.
They argue that a change in the law may be needed to encourage more sensible drinking.
Why are the risks from alcohol important?
Drinking too much alcohol (either by binge drinking or regular heavy drinking) causes damage to the tissues in the brain, high blood pressure and raised levels of toxins. This means that excessive drinking produces a double-whammy of brain damaging effects:
- Alcohol is a toxin that directly damages brain tissues
- Alcohol produces high blood pressure, which damages the blood supply to the brain, starving the tissues of the oxygen and nutrients they need.
In fact binge-drinking is linked to a higher risk of having a stroke.
However, these risks do not mean that you have to give up drinking alcohol entirely. Staying within the UK recommended weekly alcohol limits may actually help to lower blood pressure and help to protect the body.
What does this mean?
The risks of heavy drinking and binge drinking are well known - as are the risks from high blood pressure - because of this, the UK Government has set the following recommended alcohol limits:
- Men: no more than 3-4 units a day
- Women: no more than 2-3 units a day
To best protect your health, it is worth sticking to these limits and following a blood pressure friendly lifestyle to help prevent vascular dementia.
For more on alcohol limits and preventing high blood pressure, please use the links below.
Gupta S, Warner J. Editorial: Alcohol-related dementia: a 21st-century epidemic? British Journal of Pyschiatry 2008; 193: 351-353.