Tags: dementia | risk factors | modifiable | prevention

12 Dementia Risk Factors You Can Change

older man and woman preparing healthy foods in kitchen

By    |   Friday, 10 May 2024 05:51 PM EDT

Dementia cases are expected to skyrocket as our population ages. A recent report noted that the number of people living with dementia is expected to reach 139 million globally by the year 2050. Currently there are 55 million people with the condition, characterized by several diseases that cause cognitive decline states the World Health Organization (WHO).

“Dementia is currently the seventh leading cause of death and one of the major causes of disability and dependance among older people globally,” according to WHO.

While age is the major risk factor for dementia, researchers have identified 12 “potentially modifiable risk factors,” according to CNBC. These risk factors appear in a special report published by The Lancet Commission in 2020:

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• Less education.

• Hypertension.

• Hearing impairment.

• Smoking.

• Obesity.

• Depression.

• Physical inactivity.

• Diabetes.

• Low social contact.

• Excessive alcohol consumption.

• Traumatic brain injury.

• Air pollution.

“Together these 12 modifiable risk factors account for around 40% of worldwide dementia, which consequently could theoretically be prevented or delayed,” said The Lancet report.

To reduce your risk of dementia, experts say that these protective factors can help:

Break a sweat. Engage in regular cardiovascular exercise that elevates your heart rate and increases blood flow to the brain and body. Several studies have found an association between physical activity and reduced risk of cognitive decline.

Hit the books. Formal education at any stage of life can help reduce the risk of cognitive decline. “It’s really a case of use it or lose it,” says Dean Hartley, Ph.D., former director of science initiatives at the Alzheimer’s Association. Take classes online or at a local community center or college.

Butt out. Quitting smoking can reduce the risk of getting Alzheimer’s to that of people who have not smoked. The research is clear that smoking can lead to cognitive decline.

Follow your heart. The same risk factors for cardiovascular disease and stroke — obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes — negatively impact your cognitive health. “It’s really a commonsense formula but now we have strong data to support the fact that taking care of your heart also protects your brain health,” says Hartley.

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Heads up! Brain injury can raise your risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Wear a seat belt, use a helmet when playing contact sports or riding a bike, and take steps to prevent falls.

Fuel up right. Eating a balanced diet that is lower in fat and higher in fruits and vegetables makes good brain health, notes Hartley. “Our research found that people who followed diets designed to promote cardiovascular health were also more likely to maintain strong cognitive function in old age. In particular, we found that sticking to the MIND diet was associated with 30 to 35% lower risk of cognitive impairment in older adults.” The MIND diet, which stands for the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, is a hybrid of both diets.

Catch some ZZZ’s. Research has found “significant association between sleep disordered breathing and the accumulation of biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease,” according to the Alzheimer’s Association. See a healthcare professional if you have trouble sleeping.

Take care of your mental health. Some studies found that a history of depression and stress is associated with an increased risk of cognitive decline. “Learn ways to manage your stress, anxiety and other mental health issues,” says Hartley.

Buddy up. Staying socially active may indeed support brain health. Pursue social activities that are meaningful to you, notes Dr. Gary Small, author of The Alzheimer’s Prevention Program. Find a way to be part of your local community. If you love animals, volunteer at the local shelter.

Stump yourself. Challenge and activate your mind by doing puzzles and playing games that require strategic thinking like bridge or chess, says Small. “Exercise your brain like you’d exercise your muscles,” he says. “Keep challenging yourself.”

© 2024 NewsmaxHealth. All rights reserved.

Dementia cases are expected to skyrocket as our population ages. A recent report noted that the number of people living with dementia is expected to reach 139 million globally by the year 2050. Currently there are 55 million people with the condition, characterized by...
dementia, risk factors, modifiable, prevention
Friday, 10 May 2024 05:51 PM
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