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12 risk factors for dementia – charity launches survey to determine your likelihood

It is estimated that around 900,000 people in the UK are currently living with dementia. Although it is usually associated with aging, your age is not always the determining factor for this condition. And in fact, there are 12 lifestyle factors that you can apply at a young age to reduce your risk of dementia.

The Lancet Commission on Dementia, Prevention, Intervention and Care found that about 40% of all cases of dementia can be delayed or prevented by adhering to these 12 factors.

He added three factors to his previous list of nine, based on research by 28 of the world’s leading dementia experts.

Three additional risk factors were associated with six percent of all cases of dementia.

The experts determined that three percent of cases were due to head injuries in middle age, one percent to heavy drinking (more than 21 units per week) in middle age, and two percent to exposure to air pollution later in life.

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The remaining nine risk factors are:

  • Less Education
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Hearing loss
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Depression
  • Physical inactivity
  • Diabetes
  • Low level of social contacts.

Lead author Professor Gill Livingston of University College London explained: “Interventions are likely to have the greatest impact on those who are disproportionately exposed to risk factors for dementia, such as those in low- and middle-income countries, and vulnerable populations, including black, Asian and ethnic minorities.

“As a society, we must think not only about promoting health to prevent dementia, but also to start fighting inequality in order to improve the conditions in which people live their lives.

“We can mitigate risks by creating active and healthy communities where physical activity is the norm, better nutrition is available to all, and excessive drinking is kept to a minimum.”

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With this in mind, the team developed a set of recommendations for both policy makers and individuals to combat dementia.

It:

  • Aim to maintain systolic blood pressure at 130 mmHg. Art. or lower in middle age, starting around age 40.
  • Encourage the use of hearing aids for hearing loss and reduce hearing loss by protecting your ears from high noise levels.
  • Reduce exposure to air pollution and second-hand smoke
  • Prevent head injury (especially through high-risk activities and transportation)
  • Prevent alcohol abuse and limit alcohol consumption to less than 21 drinks per week.
  • Smoking cessation and support for people to quit smoking (useful at any age)
  • Provide all children with primary and secondary education
  • Keep an active lifestyle in middle and possibly later in life.
  • Reduce obesity and diabetes.

Fiona Carragher, director of research and influence at the Alzheimer’s Society, which partially funded the Lancet Commission, added: “Dementia is a global crisis affecting more than 50 million people, leaving devastated families in its wake.

“The news that 40 percent of dementia cases are theoretically now preventable is certainly welcome, but preventing thousands of people from losing their memories, relationships, and identity will depend on more than this knowledge alone.

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“While we don’t have all the answers yet, we can take action now to address risk factors that are under our control, including excessive drinking, obesity and high blood pressure.

“At the same time, we need a public health policy to address other factors such as air pollution and inequality in children’s education.”

Now, to determine the risk of developing dementia, the British Alzheimer’s Research Agency has launched the Think Brain Health Check-In program.

Registration takes about 10 minutes and asks questions about your daily life.

Once completed, it will calculate your risk level and provide personalized recommendations on how to reduce your risk.

This comes after the charity conducted a survey in 2021 that showed that only a third (33 per cent) of British adults believe that their risk of developing dementia can be influenced.

It also showed that more than half (56 percent) of people were unable to identify any underlying risk factors for dementia.

Common symptoms of dementia include:

  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty performing normal daily tasks
  • Trying to follow a conversation or find the right word
  • Confused about time and place
  • Mood changes.

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