Dementia is a condition that blights many and causes strains on whole families. Most of us live in fear of its grip and hope upon hope that our latter years are not consumed by it. 

And whilst it is a condition associated with our more senior years when there is little that can be done about it, it’s pretty certain that contributing factors leading to dementia are sown much earlier.

And these we can affect…

According to a BBC report, it is believed that one in three cases of dementia could be avoided if people do a better job of looking after their brain health in earlier life. And nine risk factors have been identified as major contributors to what can become full blown dementia.

An international study in The Lancet was presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in London. From this we have a better idea of what it takes to slow the onset of or even prevent dementia.

The Nine Contributing Risk Factors:

Smoking

Failing to complete secondary education

Mid life hearing loss

Physical inactivity

Depression and failure to seek early treatment

Social isolation

Obesity

High blood pressure

Type 2 diabetes

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Amongst those, we have the usual suspects of course. Smoking, obesity and physical inactivity are never going to feature on a list of great lifestyle options!

A difference can be made!

It is believed that the above list combines to make up 35% of overall contributing factors – factors that can be actively addressed and improved. The other 65% is believed to be non-modifiable. But don’t let that put you off and make you all fatalistic – a 35% change in any circumstances is very significant!

Make a 35% difference and you have a vastly increased chance to prevent dementia.

The findings are certainly worth taking note of as they represent the combined work of 24 international experts whose conclusion is that lifestyle factors and choices represent a major element of increasing or decreasing the risk of dementia.

The findings are certainly worth taking note of as they represent the combined work of 24 international experts whose conclusion is that lifestyle factors and choices represent a major element of increasing or decreasing the risk of dementia.

It is possible to build the brain’s networks and this is called ‘Cognitive Reserves’. In doing so we can take strong preventative action against later onset of dementia. Effectively making the brain more resilient to damage as it ages.

Several of the nine factors are linked. For example, early hearing loss deprives of key senses and important cognition, it is likely to contribute to isolation which has been shown to cause or compound depression. Address the first part of the chain and the rest need not enter the equation.

Of course looking at the other matters such as smoking, obesity, lack of physical activity, high blood pressure… By taking steps to nullify or eradicate these we are doing more than guarding against dementia, we are also taking preventative or even reversing steps again many more diseases and conditions.

A worldwide problem

There are almost 50 million people currently living with dementia globally. If left unchecked it is believed that figure will accelerate to 131 million by 2050. But these figures don’t tell the full story. Dementia is devastating not only to the sufferer but to those immediately around them; husband, wife, children, brother, sister. When they are added to the equation then the numbers are truly vast.

Addressing the list of nine modifiable factors could go a great way to prevent dementia. This will improve millions of lives and put life into millions over the coming years.

Connect with Expert Diane Youdale

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