Know Your Risk Factors for Dementia
About 40% of dementias could be prevented or delayed by addressing these 12 modifiable risk factors for dementia.
Dementia is a term given to a constellation of symptoms related to memory, thinking, and social abilities. Dementia is not a specific condition; instead, it is an umbrella term for many illnesses that result in these problems. While some countries are seeing decreases, the overall incidence of dementia is rising rapidly worldwide.
A well-known example of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. AD is the most common reason for progressive dementia among older individuals. Scientists speculate that we could delay or prevent upwards of 40 percent of dementia.
Let’s turn to a recent report from the Lancet standing committee on dementia prevention, intervention, and care. The researchers add three risk factors to the known nine potentially changeable risks. Let’s begin by looking at the factors that they previously reported in 2017:
- less education in early life (7 percent reduction in dementia risk)
- hearing loss (8 percent)
- high blood pressure (2 percent)
- obesity in mid-life (1 percent)
- smoking (5 percent)
- depression (4 percent)
- social isolation (4 percent)
- physical inactivity (2 percent)
- diabetes in later life (1 percent)
Now, the committee adds three more risk factors for dementia risk reduction. These include:
- excessive alcohol consumption (1 percent reduction in dementia risk)
- traumatic brain injury (3 percent)
- air pollution (2 percent)
The scientists offer the hope that approximately 40 percent of dementias could be either delayed or prevented by addressing these 12 risk factors.
An action plan for you
I think that we can and must be more aggressive in reducing our risk of dementia. Strategies should preferably start early in life and continue throughout our lives. Still, it is rarely too late to practice risk-reduction.
You may begin by knowing your blood pressure, especially after age 40 years. The research study authors offer that you should aim for a systolic pressure of less than 130. Quitting smoking seems obvious, but doing so can provide benefit even at age 70.
I didn’t realize that hearing loss is a modifiable risk factor for dementia, or that investigations point to hearing aid use as eliminating the increase. We can be better at targeting higher-risk populations as well.
Do you have high blood pressure? Manage it. Same for diabetes. Not very active in the social realm? Aim for more social engagement.
To me, physical activity helps to deal with most of the risk factors! Other interventions should address the risk factors described above.
Drop Your Dementia Risk with Exercise
Of all lifestyle changes, getting exercise appears to be one of the best things to drop your dementia risk.
Finally, while we cannot cure dementia, interventions can help the individual and those that care about them. Thank you for joining me today.