The 12 lifestyle factors that increase the risk of dementia have been revealed
New data suggests that hundreds of thousands of cases of dementia could be stopped if people took more steps to prevent it.
Regular hearing checks, seven hours of sleep per night and more exercise are among 12 lifestyle factors that can reduce a person’s chances of developing dementia by up to 40 percent.
But only a third of Brits know there are things they can do to help keep dementia at bay, according to new data from Alzheimer’s Research UK.
And a survey found that only one in 50 people do everything they can to ward off the disease.
Regular hearing checks, seven hours of sleep each night and more exercise are among 12 lifestyle factors that can reduce a person’s chances of developing dementia by up to 40 percent.
The 12 steps to reduce the risk of dementia
- Get at least seven hours of sleep each night
- Regularly challenge the brain
- Mental health care
- Stay socially active
- Caring for your hearing
- Eat a balanced diet
- Staying physically active
- Quit Smoking
- Drink responsibly
- Maintain a healthy level of cholesterol
- Maintain a healthy blood pressure
- Manage diabetes as much as possible
Experts have suggested simple steps – such as hearing tests in your 30s and 40s – could help lower dementia rates and have called for brain health to become a larger part of the NHS Health Check.
The charity is launching an online survey of people to see how they score on modifiable risk factorsAnd what can they do now to boost their chances of avoiding it in the future?
About 900,000 people in the UK and 7 million in the US suffer from dementia, which is an umbrella term used for several brain diseases that affect memory, thinking and cognition.
In 2020, the Lancet Commission concluded that up to 40 percent of cases could be prevented or delayed by targeting 12 modifiable risk factors, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, physical inactivity, and excessive alcohol and smoking.
With the number of cases rising 75 percent by 2050, a poll of more than 2,000 cases found that only 2 percent of the public were taking the necessary steps to lower the risk as much as possible.
Hearing loss, for example, has been linked to five modifiable risk factors — including social isolation, depression, physical inactivity/obesity, and brain injury from falls.
Previous research found that users of hearing aids had a 50 percent lower risk of mild cognition than those who did not use them, while another research showed that they could reduce the progression from mild cognitive impairment to dementia by 27 percent.
However, the stigmas attached to hearing aids and the difficulties in accessing them mean that most people who need them still do not use them.
The latest survey found that while 35 percent of people said they had concerns about their hearing, six in ten (59 percent) reported doing nothing about it.
Dr Sarah Burmeister, chief scientist at Dementia Platforms UK, said hearing tests needed to become normalized and “more accessible, affordable and more easily usable by those with hearing loss”.
Regular hearing checks at all levels of the population are so important and this across the lifespan that it is normal to have a hearing test if you are 30 or 40 years old.
“And then if we normalize hearing checks, then the wearing of hearing aids will be normalized, and then the stigma around wearing hearing aids will be reduced.”
Less than a third of the public (31 per cent) said they get the recommended seven hours of quality sleep per night – the amount recommended for good brain health.
And more than a third of people reported failing to challenge their brains regularly, with only 32 percent managing to do so occasionally, and 4 percent rarely doing so.
Scientists hope that by raising awareness of risk factors — which change as we age — people can take steps to reduce their chances of developing the disease.
Professor Jonathan Shute, chief medical officer at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said the disease had become “people’s biggest fear” of aging.
He said increasing numbers of people are undergoing genetic testing, which accounts for 60 percent of the remaining cases.
However, increasing public awareness of lifestyle modification could reduce cases by tens of thousands annually, he suggests.
He said: “Dementia is now the most feared consequence of aging, and so people would like to know what to do about their risk.
People come to us, people go off and do genetics, which of course they can’t change, and then ask what they can do to modify the risk.
The fact that many of the risk factors that have been mentioned – blood pressure, smoking, etc. are risk factors for cardiovascular disease and cancer, we can take advantage of that as part of the public health message.
“It’s empowering for people to know that there are things they can do and that’s why this tool was developed.”
What is dementia?
Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a group of neurological disorders
Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a group of progressive neurological disorders (those affecting the brain) that affect memory, thinking and behaviour.
There are many types of dementia, the most common being Alzheimer’s disease.
Some people may have a combination of different types of dementia.
No matter what type is diagnosed, each person will experience dementia in their own unique way.
Dementia is a global concern but appears most often in wealthier countries, where people are more likely to live to an old age.
How many people are affected?
The Alzheimer’s Society reports that there are more than 900,000 people living with dementia in the UK today. This is expected to increase to 1.6 million by 2040.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, affecting between 50 and 75 percent of sufferers.
In the United States, it is estimated that there are 5.5 million people with Alzheimer’s disease. A similar percentage is expected to rise in the coming years.
As a person ages, the risk of dementia increases.
Diagnosis rates are improving but it is believed that many people with dementia remain undiagnosed.
Is there a cure?
Currently there is no cure for dementia.
But new medications can slow its progression, and the earlier it is caught, the more effective treatments can be.
Source: Alzheimer’s Association