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Daily Mirror, 8th Feb: Boozy pensioners risk ‘alcoholic dementia’ with the damage from drink rivaling Alzheimer’s

February 12th 2016

Thanks to SHAAP for their weekly media monitoring.
This article was taken from Daily Mirror, 8th Feb.

Studies have shown that baby boomers are the heaviest drinkers and it’s leaving thousands hospitalised every year with mental disorders.

As we live longer, age-related maladies loom large unless we adjust our lifestyles and try to stay healthy into old age. What we fear most is declining brain function and the spectre of Alzheimer’s .

But it’s now emerging that alcoholic brain damage is catching up with ­Alzheimer’s because oldies are drinking more and more.

“Alcohol-related memory problems are grossly under-reported and mistaken for Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr Tony Rao, Consultant Old Age Psychiatrist at the Maudsley Hospital, South London.

“Ten years ago, I would have been treating no more than three people at any one time for alcohol-related brain damage. Now there are at least 10 patients suffering in the service I am working in.”

Most of his patients were thought to have either depression or Alzheimer’s. Then they admitted to heavy drinking and a diagnosis of alcohol-related brain damage followed. Most were in their 70s, but recently more people are in their mid- to late-60s.

Baby boomers, those aged 51-70, are more likely to drink every day, often at home, than any other age group. A recent Health Survey for England found the heaviest drinkers are in late middle age or older.

Among men, a third of 65- to 74-year-olds are over the limit of 21 units a week, and nearly one in 10 are drinking more than 50 units.

Women aged 55 to 64 are the heaviest female drinkers. A fifth of them drink more than the recommended 14 units a week, while one in 20 consume more than 35 units.

These habits take a toll. More older people are hospitalised every year for mental disorders related to alcohol (11,373) than for alcohol-related liver disease (9,890). This increase is far greater than the growth in the elderly population.

The bottom line is that this bingeing behaviour is leading to more over-60s being hospitalised for alcoholic brain damage, a condition known as Korsakoff syndrome, which is similar to dementia.

You get profound memory loss caused by long-term heavy drinking – and it’s irreversible. Although the numbers are small at the moment, they are trending sharply upwards.

“Alcohol consumption among older people is frequently overlooked and under-addressed,” said Tom Smith, head of policy at the charity Alcohol Concern.

“As a consequence, we are seeing alcohol-related harm rocket among this age group – not only physical, but mental and behavioural.

“As people live longer there is a growing need for targeted strategies to tackle excessive drinking in older age.”

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