As the world’s population ages, scientists are working hard to discover what causes dementia—which now affects nearly 50 million people worldwide.
Now, a medical journal called The Lancet has pulled together a list of all the risk factors, to help us understand how we can reduce our risk of developing the brain disease.
Katrina Roe chatted to journalist Ky Chow who has been researching the topic, and explained the nine major risk factors that we may be able to avoid to reduce our risk by up to 35 percent.
Dementia risk factors identified by scientists include:
- Leaving school before year 12, not completing education
- Hearing loss in mid-life
- High blood pressure in mid-life
- Mid-life obesity
- Diabetes later in life
- Physical inactivity later in life
- Smoking later in life
- Depression later in life
- Social isolation later in life
While the factors may seem disconnected at first glance, Ky points out that they are in fact quite related when you look a bit deeper. For example, education and hearing both impact socialisation and employability.
“When people stay in high school, and if they can avoid hearing loss, [some professors believe] that actually improves your social activity and enables you to avoid social isolation,” he said.
Many of the physical health factors are closely related.
“Physical inactivity for example, and late-life depression, would often go together,” said Ky. “If you’re not able to get out and about, that affects your social isolation and mental health, as does diabetes and obesity. These can be real social inhibitors.”
In a nutshell, staying active and engaged in life and the community, will help you to avoid dementia. For some, staying active may mean staying in employment for as long as possible, while for others it will mean being involved in community groups, a sport, a church, a social club or a service group.
“If you can keep busy, it seems, as long as possible, stay active, and also keep fit, all of those really seem to help out. If you [address] all of these [nine] things together, it could reduce the chances of dementia by up to 35 percent,” said Ky. “Over a third of dementia cases could be prevented with some basic lifestyle changes.”
Below: The Lancet’s infographic on risk factors for dementia.
Read the full Lancet Dementia 2017 Commission:
The Lancet: Dementia prevention, intervention, and care