Today The Lancet published some of the risk factors associated with developing Dementia. They are as follows
- mid-life hearing loss – 9%
- failing to complete secondary education – 8%
- smoking – 5%
- depression – 4%
- physical inactivity – 3%
- social isolation – 2%
- high blood pressure – 2%
- obesity – 1%
- type 2 diabetes – 1%
Why are these important?
- Mid life hearing loss: is associated (in animals) with shrinkage of the brain, it is postulated that something similar happens in humans and this can contribute to the development of dementia. Also it contributes to social isolation and depression which are also risk factors.
- Failing to complete secondary education: To maintain plasticity and resilience in the brain life long learning is important. Learning new skills or information as you get older greatly contributes to overall happiness and longevity. Especially if you do so with others; thereby also helping you not to fall into social isolation and depression. Poor early education may discourage learning in later life, it may not be associated with anything pleasurable. Plus there may be embarrassment at a lack of education which may inhibit embarking any further study . Secondly you may not understand why the other risk factors are a problem and not engage in activity that may help.
- Smoking: Smoking both restricts blood flow to the brain and introduces toxic chemicals into the body, neither of which are good for brain health.
- Depression/social isolation: Are known factors that contribute to poor health, lack of stimulation and social activity are not good for healthy brain function.
- High blood pressure: Restricts blood flow to the body and brain, the brain requires a lot of oxygen and glucose. Lack of blood flow will restrict this and lead to poor function.
- Obesity/lack of physical exercise/type 2 diabetes: Again all well known factors that contribute to poor health which will include the brain.
Now all these risks only add up to 35%, but they are all things that we can address. A healthy lifestyle that includes a good diet, moderate daily exercise, brain activity and social engagement will help. Anything that helps the heart will help the brain.
Dementia is one of the most feared illnesses in the world, so being able to tackle some of the risk factors must be worth the prize of good brain function into old age.