Smoking, alcohol and dementia

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There is some pretty clear advice about this, and some suggestions that probably work if you want to reduce or delay symptoms of dementia.

Don’t smoke

It would be better if you never had, but improvements will start the day you give up.

There is clear evidence in the case of heavy smokers. If you give up in middle age, the risk of dementia after 20 years is the same as if you never smoked. There is a clear link with vascular health, but it is linked to risk of Alzheimer’s disease as well.

Alcohol Related Brain Damage (ARBD)

There is clear evidence in the case of heavy smokers. If you give up in middle age, the risk of dementia after 20 years is the same as if you never smoked

Alcohol Related Brain Damage (ARBD) is the only really preventable form of dementia. Women’s brains are more vulnerable to alcohol and women who drink “in moderation” have an increased risk of mild cognitive impairment. People who indulge in binge drinking such as having a heavy session once a month are more likely to experience problems and fortnightly binging doubles the risk. People of all ages need to take care but drinking in older age presents its own problems.

There is some research that shows having one glass of red wine a day can have beneficial effects. I prefer champagne. Fortunately recent research from the University of Reading suggests that people over forty would be wise to drink two or three glasses of bubbly a week. Hurrah! That research was done with rats, but I don’t care.  It is good enough evidence for me!  Joking apart.. the point is to be moderate, if you have alcohol at all. It is sometimes difficult to count what you've had.  Keep a diary.

Management of drinking and smoking

If the management of drinking and smoking is challenging for you, remember that there are help lines and organisations there to support you which you can contact via your GP or searching the internet for your local support group.  

There's more about this in Dementia The One Stop Guide.