Health and Lifestyle for the over 50s
Facebook Pinterest

Risk Factors For Developing Dementia

Posted by The Best of Health
Categories: Dementia / Health and Wellbeing /

Dementia tree diagram

Studies show that dementia is now our most feared disease. Previously cancer took this title but advances in screening, surgery and drug therapies have changed the outlook for patients with cancer, leaving the outlook for dementia trailing behind.

Although current therapies and drugs can only slow the progression of the disease and alleviate the symptoms, scientists are optimistic that new treatments will be developed within five years which will either halt or reverse dementia.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia affecting more than 520,000 people in Britain. This is thought to result in a loss of connections between cells in the brain due to the build up of abnormal amyloid and tau proteins. A further 150,000 people in the UK have vascular dementia. In this form of dementia the brain cells die due to a restriction in their blood supply. This can be caused by a stroke or diseased blood vessels in the brain.

Possible symptoms of dementia

  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks
  • Problems with abstract thinking
  • Personality changes
  • Mood changes
  • Disorientation often with familiar things and places
  • Poor judgement often placing themselves in danger
  • Misplacing things
  • Loss of motivation and initiative
  • Losing interest in personal hygiene and care
  • Problems communicating with others

The Alzheimer’s Association has put together a document “Know the 10 signs” listing real life examples of how this type of dementia can affect people. You can access the document by clicking on the following link:

http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_10_signs_of_alzheimers.asp

Alzheimers word cloud

What are the causes and risk factors involved in the onset of dementia?

Researchers have discovered some important factors that affect our risk of developing dementia. Our risk of developing the disease depends upon a combination of these. Some of them, such as our age and genes, cannot be controlled. Others can be controlled, for example, by changing our lifestyle.

  • Genetics and family history – A family history of Alzheimer’s means that you are more at risk, with some studies suggesting that your overall risk is increased five or six fold if you have a parent or sibling with the disease.
  • Age – Dementia typically starts after the age of 65 and the risk increases with age. One in six 80 year olds are affected. As we get older the brain’s agility decreases and its connections become less strong.
  • Obesity – One theory is that excess fat releases harmful hormones that are damaging to brain cells. Being overweight also tends to be accompanied by high blood pressure, cholesterol and furring up of arteries, raising the risk of vascular dementia.
  • Diabetes – Type 2 diabetes raises the risk of dementia. High blood sugar damages the tiny blood vessels in the brain which raises the risk of stroke and vascular dementia. It also causes inflammation which may increase the deposits of amyloid plaques and tau.
  • Exercise – Exercise is vital and hundreds of studies support this. It increases blood supply to the brain and lowers the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure. It also helps mood which has a positive effect on cognition.
  • Smoking – Smoking may increase your risk of developing dementia and other vascular diseases.
  • Blood pressure – High blood pressure is a significant risk factor as it can cause a stroke, or lead to inflammation which may contribute to the build up of amyloid plaques.
  • Stress – Chronic stress raises the level of the hormone cortisol. There are cortisol receptors in the regions of the brain important for learning and memory. If cortisol levels remain high, these receptors become saturated thus damaging brain cells.
  • Depression – Although not yet well understood, late-life depression, especially in men, may be a risk factor or an indication of the development of dementia.
  • High oestrogen levels – Women taking oestrogen and progesterone years after the menopause may be at greater risk of developing the disease.
  • Heavy alcohol intake – While some studies show that a moderate amount of alcohol, particularly red wine, may be beneficial for health, binge drinking or heavy drinking have been linked to an increased risk of developing the disease.

“Dementia is not inevitable,” says Dr Naji Tabet, a leading dementia specialist and senior lecturer at Brighton and Sussex Medical School.

“We think that in a quarter of patients destined to develop the most common causes of dementia – including many of those with a family susceptibility – it can be stopped or significantly delayed. It’s never too early or too late to start thinking about what you could do to protect yourself.”

For further reading on how you can reduce your risk of developing dementia, please click on the link to take you to the Alzheimer’s Society in the UK.

Related Posts

  • Breakthrough to Stop Alzheimer's Development 1

    Cambridge University scientists, working with collaborators in Sweden and Estonia, have moved a massive step closer to being able to prevent Alzheimer’s disease developing past its initial stages. The discovery of a naturally-occurring molecule could…

  • dementia depression

    A new study has found that driving may reduce the risk of dementia and boost cognitive function for older drivers. An increase in depression is also closely linked with the loss of independence when an…

Related Topics
Posted by The Best of Health

We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By agreeing you accept the use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.

Privacy Settings saved!
Privacy Settings

When you visit any web site, it may store or retrieve information on your browser, mostly in the form of cookies. Control your personal Cookie Services here.

These cookies allow us to count visits and traffic sources, so we can measure and improve the performance of our site.

In order to use this website we use the following technically required cookies
  • wordpress_test_cookie

We use Google Tag Manager to monitor our traffic and to help us AB test new features.

Decline all Services
Accept all Services
X