Scientists from Mount Sinai found that people who start abusing alcohol later in life—after age 40—may be doing so secondary to an underlying neurologic condition, such as frontotemporal dementia.
The research is published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and was conducted by Georges Nassan et al.
Overall alcohol abuse—classified as when alcohol consumption negatively impacts work or social life or leads to legal ramifications—is present in 1.7 percent of older adults in the United States.
Previous research has found lifelong alcohol abuse as a risk factor for dementia.
However, it has been unknown whether older adults who begin abusing alcohol late in life have an underlying neurodegenerative disease.
In the study, the team examined data of patients who had a clinical diagnosis of behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD), Alzheimer’s-type dementia, or semantic variant primary progressive aphasia.
Late-onset alcohol abuse is abuse that began at age 40 or above, and alcohol abuse is the first symptom of dementia as abuse that started within the first three years, either before or after symptom onset.
Among the 1,518 participants screened, late-onset alcohol abuse affected 2.2 percent.
The team found that late-onset alcohol abuse was much more frequent in patients with bvFTD than those with Alzheimer’s-type dementia.
They also found that alcohol abuse as a first symptom occurred in 1.4 percent of all patients, five times more frequently in patients with bvFTD than those with Alzheimer’s-type dementia.
The results showed that late-onset alcohol abuse is much more frequent in bvFTD than in Alzheimer’s-type dementia.
The team says because patients who begin using alcohol late in life are usually first seen by psychiatrists, primary care providers, and rehabilitation specialists, these professionals should be aware of the possibility that a neurodegenerative disease might be underlying the onset of alcohol abuse late in life.
Therefore, a specific evaluation including checking for other frontal lobe symptoms should be performed, and patients at risk should be referred to a neurologist.
If you care about dementia, please read studies about diet that could prevent memory loss and dementia, and this type of drug may increase dementia risk.
For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about why people with type 2 diabetes develop dementia, and results showing healthy lifestyle can lower dementia risk despite family history of dementia.
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