According to research published in the BMJ Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, two thirds of cases of Alzheimer’s disease are linked to nine risk factors. Most of these risks can be avoided through lifestyle changes, so avoiding them could possibly be the best way to reduce your risk of dementia.
Scientists analysed data from 323 studies, which explored 93 potential risk factors. The research revealed that just nine of them are associated with most cases of Alzheimer’s.
The Risk Factors for developing Alzheimer’s
The nine risk factors for Alzheimer’s considered to be the most significant are:
- Carotid artery narrowing (narrowing of the two large blood vessels that supply oxygenated blood to the brain)
- Low educational attainment & failing to complete secondary education
- High blood pressure
- Smoking habits
- High levels of homocysteine (an amino acid)
- Type 2 diabetes
The study was observational so no definitive conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect, but the results do suggest that making certain healthy lifestyle decisions may play a role in reducing your risk of dementia.
“Alzheimer’s disease is likely to be caused by a combination of genetic and lifestyle factors that we don’t yet fully understand,” says Eric Karran, director of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK. “As there is still no surefire way to prevent Alzheimer’s, we need to see more research like this and make sure the public are aware that there are things they can be doing now to reduce their risk of the condition.”
Reducing Your Risk of Alzheimer’s
The results of this research suggest that you may be able to lower your risk of Alzheimer’s disease by doing the following:
- Maintain a healthy, balanced diet. This will help you stave off several of the risk factors, including obesity, type 2 diabetes and carotid artery narrowing.
- Exercise regularly. This will help you further cut down your risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes, and will also keep you from becoming overly frail.
- If you smoke, you should try to give up the habit and stop smoking and if you drink alcohol regularly, try to cut down.
- Regularly engage in activities which give your mind a workout, such as brain-training games, crossword puzzles and educational reading.
Incorporating these habits and behaviours into your lifestyle not only has the potential to help you stave off dementia, but will have an overall positive impact on your physical and mental health. It’s important not to think of Alzheimer’s as a disease you can do nothing about – there are steps you can and should take to reduce your risk or delay the onset.
This study has now been further endorsed by a new study published in the Lancet. The study was presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in July 2017 in London. In addition to the risk factors identified previously, mid-life hearing loss has now been cited as the largest risk factor, responsible for 9% of the risk. Social isolation has also been found to significantly increase the risk of dementia.
Lead author of the study, Professor Gill Livingston, from University College London states:
“Although dementia is diagnosed in later life, the brain changes usually begin to develop years before.
“Acting now will vastly improve life for people with dementia and their families and, in doing so, will transform the future of society.”
If you would like to read more about this new study, please follow this link to the BBC news website.
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