Lifestyle factors more important than aging in dementia risk

Recent evidence has shown that a person’s lifestyle contributes more to dementia risk than aging. Risk factors, including smoking and diabetes, have been found to have a more significant effect on the acquisition of this disease than the aging process.1 The studies looked at participants ages 18 to 89 and found that identifying and modifying these risk factors at a younger age may prevent a long-term decline in brain function.1 This research is remarkable as it is one of the first studies to look at risk factors across all stages of adulthood, difference from only the last few years.1

The researchers looked specifically at eight risk factors: low education (less than a high school diploma), hearing loss, traumatic brain injury, alcohol/substance abuse, hypertension, smoking, diabetes, and depression.2 Each of these factors led to to a decline in cognitive performance equivalent to three years of aging.2 Each additional risk factor adds another three years of aging. That being the case, having two risk factors, for example, would lead to a combination of six years of aging in terms of decreased cognitive performance.1

The results of this research are crucial as these risk factors that lead to dementia can be modified.1 In addition, studies have shown that age-related cognitive decline begins in early adulthood.2 Knowing this, people can start modifying your risk factors at any given time. younger age.1 For example, research showed that younger adults were more likely to have smoking as a risk factor.2 Therefore, this group of younger adults could potentially preserve brain function by quitting smoking early in life. younger age.2 In addition, in any age group, health factors such as diabetes can be controlled and hearing loss can be addressed.1

hope for aging

Another positive result of this research was that older adults without risk factors were more likely to preserve their brain function than those with risk factors.2 In fact, those in their forties to seventies without risk factors had similar cognitive performance those who were 10-20 years younger than them with risk factors.2

This research found that those in the oldest age group were more likely to have at least one risk factor and that risk factors have a more significant effect with increasing age.2 However, since risk factors are modifiable, research suggests that adults can maintain their cognitive performance as they age.1

steps for the future

Dementia is considered the most prominent global health problem in this era.2 In addition, evidence has shown which risk factors are more prevalent in certain age groups, for example, smoking in young adults and hypertension in older adults. 2 According to researchers, they can address risk factors for dementia.2 Having this information is important because it shows: 1) people can take steps to modify their risk factors early in life to prevent or delay the onset of dementia , and 2) prevention messages can be targeted to specific people. age groups, for example, anti-smoking messages aimed at younger adults.2

This research highlights the need to study dementia prevention and the contribution of modifiable risk factors.2


Eurek alert! (2022, July 13). Eurek alert! official website, accessed 19 July 2022, .LaPlume AA, McKetton L, Levine B, Troyer AK, Anderson ND. The adverse effect of modifiable dementia risk factors on cognition is amplified throughout adult life. Alzheimer’s Dementia (Amst). 2022;14(1):e12337. Published on July 13, 2022. doi:10.1002/dad2.12337

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