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Risks identified in developing dementia

July 2017

Dementia is one of the most feared health problems and something that causes growing concern as we age. Was that just silly forgetfulness or is that the start of a serious life changing problem? Now a major review by the Lancet indicates nine top risk elements connected to dementia.

The Lancet is respected worldwide as a major contributor to health and medical media coverage, producing a huge range of specialist journalist on all areas of health. It was actually founded in 1823 by en English surgeon who named it after a surgical instrument. 

The review on dementia was put together by the Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention, Intervention and Care and it identified key risk factors as:

  • low levels of education
  • midlife hearing loss
  • physical inactivity
  • high blood pressure (hypertension)
  • type 2 diabetes
  • obesity
  • smoking
  • depression
  • social isolation

Education was linked specially to those of minimal time in secondary education, and according to the review could be responsible for 7.5% of the risk of developing dementia.

Few have heard of any link between hearing loss and dementia, but the review suggests that problems in hearing mad add stress to a vulnerable brain, and also increase feelings of social isolation. The review mentioned this as a possible key for 9.1% of the risk of developing dementia.

Inactivity is something we should all be aware of these days. A lack of exercise or physical activity appear to indicated a problem in maintaining higher levels of brain cognition with a 2.6% risk of dementia.

High blood pressure or hypertension  is another problem that most are aware of, but apart from contributing to other conditions is could also be linked to 2% of the risk of developing dementia. Hypertension appears to be interlinked to type 2 diabetes and obesity as well, with type 2 diabetes rated at 1.2% and obesity at 0.8% of the risk of developing dementia.

But while all that is worth noting, the contribution of smoking to dementia was a lot higher, contributing a 5.5% level of risk in developing the disease. It has been known for sometime there is a link between smoking and cardiovascular and other problems.

Depression is an interesting one because although it was included in the report as responsible for 4% of the risk of developing dementia,  it could be the other way round, with the onset of dementia causing depression.   This is the same with social isolation, which was found to be contributing 2.3% to the risk of dementia as being isolated can also increase the risk of depression and other conditions.
However, the report is useful to help us ensure we are leading the best lifestyles possible to avoid the onset of dementia.

This means:

  • Ensuring you get your blood pressure under control, whether with antihypertensive drugs or other means.
  • Checking your diet and ensure a good intake of vegetables, fruit, nuts, beans, grains, olive oil and fish.
  • Ensure you are undertaking physical activities or exercising within your capabilities
  • Making sure your brain gets a work out in your life, whether from doing crosswords or Sudoku, using reasoning skills and so on.
  • Having good social interaction through activities, clubs or other projects.
  • Stop smoking.

Really all this adds up to a sensible and healthy well balanced lifestyle that could help to offset other health problems as well as dementia.

There are other causes as well of this dreadful disease and research in dementia has still a long way to go, but understanding some of the risk factors might just help us enjoy our life for longer.

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