The number of women in the military is increasing and is expected to double by the year 2045. Women currently make up about 9 percent of the United States military population; that number is expected to rise to 18 percent in the next 25 years.

A recent study found that older female veterans who have alcohol use disorder (AUD) are three times more likely to develop dementia than female veterans who do not have AUD.

The study, presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) 2019, is one of the first to specifically study this population and may have implications for screening and prevention.

“Nobody has looked at this before. Female veterans are a unique group because they are increasing in numbers, and it is a population that is getting older,” study investigator Amber L. Bahorik, PhD, research project coordinator in psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), told Medscape Medical News.

Principal Investigator Dr. Kristin Jaffe, professor of neurology, psychiatry, and epidemiology at UCSF, said that it is important for clinicians to ask their patients about drinking levels.  “If you’re concerned about someone having an alcohol use disorder or risky behavior, there are some pretty good treatment programs, particularly at the VA, so you can refer patients there,” said Jaffe.