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Middle-aged 'should curb drinking alcohol to avoid dementia'

File photo of a man drinking a beer Photo: PA

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 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.

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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.

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.

– The report

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

Alcohol Concern welcomed the new guidance, saying alcohol was now a direct cause for "an increasing number of people with dementia in the UK".

Jackie Ballard, chief executive of Alcohol Concern, said: “Alcohol is linked to more than 60 medical conditions, and this guidance further shows how it doesn’t take much alcohol to risk developing health problems.

“We would like the Government to act on this increasing evidence to implement mandatory health warnings on alcohol, as is standard practice in other countries, to help people know the links between health conditions and alcohol consumption.”