Dementia risk dependent more on lifestyle than age

According to a new study, dementia risk is dependent more on lifestyle than age. The findings are based on study of individuals with no dementia risk factors, such as smoking, diabetes or hearing loss and it was found that they have similar brain health as people who are 10 to 20 years younger than them.

According to researchers a single dementia risk factor could reduce cognition by the equivalent of up to three years of aging. The study is one of the first to look at lifestyle risk factors for dementia across the entire lifespan.

Published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment, and Disease Monitoring, a journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, the study looked at data from 22,117 people aged 18 to 89 who completed the Cogniciti Brain Health Assessment, developed by Baycrest. Participants took the test in their own homes by going to the Cogniciti website (https://cogniciti.com/). The test takes around 20 minutes to complete and consists of a background questionnaire and four cognitive tasks.

The researchers looked at participants’ performance on memory and attention tests, and how this was impacted by eight modifiable risk factors for dementia: low education (less than a high school diploma), hearing loss, traumatic brain injury, alcohol or substance abuse, hypertension, smoking (currently or in the past four years), diabetes and depression.

Each factor led to a decrease in cognitive performance by as much as three years of aging, with each additional factor contributing the same amount of decline. For example, having three risk factors could lead to a decrease in cognitive performance equivalent to as much as nine years of aging. The effects of the risk factors increased with age, as did the number of risk factors people had.

This research was supported by the Alzheimer Society of Canada, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

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