A Swedish study ties young-onset dementia (YOD) – or early dementia – to alcohol abuse and the disease of alcoholism. The August "online first" report of the study in the Journal of the American Medical Association JAMA Internal Medicine did not determine a specific level of drinking. Late-onset dementia also has been linked to alcohol use disorders by earlier studies.
Alcohol use increased the risk of dementia in men before age 65 at five times the risk of non-drinkers and led a list of nine risk factors, including high blood pressure during early adulthood, depression, stroke, father's dementia and low cognitive function. Slightly more than two thirds of the cases of early dementia that occurred during the 37-year Umeå University of Sweden study period were linked to the nine risk factors.
Lead researcher Peter Nordström remarked that the average age of onset of dementia in the study group was 54 years and the risks increased 20 times when two or more of the risk factors were spotted. "These risk factors were multiplicative, most were potentially modifiable, and most could be traced to adolescence, suggesting excellent opportunities for early dementia prevention."
A related online commentary in JAMA Internal Medicine from Deborah Levine, MD, notes that approximately 200,000 adults in the United States have YOD, representing 4-10 percent of all dementia cases. "We can now apply information from genetics, functional brain imaging and neuropathology and correlate these data with systemic manifestations, cognitive impairments and behavior abnormalities." She cautions, however, "Despite these advances we cannot predict who will develop YOD."
Three other risk factors identified in the study included short height, use of antipsychotic drugs and use of drugs other than alcohol.