MIDDLE-AGED people should be warned there is “no safe level of alcohol consumption” and advised to curb drinking to reduce their risk of developing dementia, according to new official guidance.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) guidelines for preventing the risks of dementia, disability and frailty suggest drinking alcohol is among several factors which can increase a person’s vulnerability.
The watchdog called on the health service to make clear the dangers of drinking alcohol clear and “encourage people to reduce the amount they drink as much as possible”.
Nice’s guidance also cited studies which showed smoking, a lack of exercise and being overweight could heighten risks.
The warning, aimed at those aged 40 to 64, comes as the Government reviews alcohol guidelines, which the could be published later this year.
In reaching its recommendations, Nice’s Public Health Advisory Committee was told “the overall message should be that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption”.
Its report also suggested drinking alcohol regularly had become a social norm which should be “challenged”. Current official guidance states men should not exceed four units a day, while women can have up to three units.
The report said: “Social norms can affect behavioural risks. It is becoming less usual for people to smoke, and that is an important driver for change. Social norms also exist for other behaviours, and need to be challenged. Drinking alcohol daily at home has become normal for some people, and this poses a threat to health.”
By changing their habits, middle-aged people could also influence younger generations, Nice added.
“Children and young people are influenced by what they see. By changing their own smoking, physical activity, drinking and dietary behaviours, people in mid-life may positively influence the health of children and young people,” the report said.
Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “These guidelines are a hugely welcome shift in public health thinking, highlighting the need for a change in mid-life behaviour and lifestyle choices to reduce the risk of dementia.
“This advice needs to be extended to encourage those who go on to develop dementia to live well and prevent the condition deteriorating more quickly.
“Nice rightly highlight the significance and evidence for cardiovascular risk factors but this focus must not overshadow the additional importance of psychological and social risks, such as stress, depression, social isolation and lack of mental activity.”