Did you know that dementia affects over 55 million people globally? That’s according to the World Health Organization, which also reports the harrowing statistic that 10 million new cases of dementia occur every year.
Although the hallmark of dementia is memory loss, that’s not what causes it. It’s attributed to brain changes, and it may be preventable in that you can take care of your health to limit risk factors.
Curious to know more? The information ahead could just help you ward off dementia in yourself or a loved one!
What Are The Odds Of Getting Dementia?
Age remains the biggest dementia risk factor, unsurprisingly. Once you turn 65, your chances of getting it go up, and continually increase from there.
For example, according to Alzheimer’s Society, two in 10 people between the ages of 65 and 69 will receive a dementia diagnosis.
By the time you turn 70, your risk for dementia is about double what it was when you were 65, and so on the older you get every five years.
Does this mean you’re guaranteed to get dementia because you’re older? No, certainly not.
Many elderly people go on to have fulfilling lives in their golden years without dementia, so it’s possible.
What Is The Strongest Predictor Of Dementia?
You can’t help that you’re getting older, but some dementia predictors are preventable. Let’s take a look at what can cause this group of symptoms.
Air Pollution Exposure
Do you live in a populated city that generates its fair share of air pollution? PM 2.5 is a type of air pollution that has been linked to reduced birth weight, asthma, heart disease, and dementia.
PM 2.5 enters the air through:
- Fuel-burning space heaters
- Oil lamps
- Frying or broiling food
- Smoking tobacco (or breathing in the smoke)
- Burning wood
- Vehicle exhaust
You can usually see PM 2.5 in the air, as it will create a hazy effect.
Although it seems like you have to live in a bubble to avoid PM 2.5 exposure, the NIH reports that wildfires and agricultural fires are the biggest sources of air pollution that can cause dementia.
Smoking And Drinking
While it’s fine to enjoy the occasional drink, imbibing too much alcohol can raise your risk for dementia.
Being a heavy smoker also doesn’t help your odds of avoiding it.
A healthy diet can keep off weight, preventing cardiovascular diseases that could shorten your life. Besides that, eating nutritiously is also good for potentially avoiding dementia.
Many health conditions, including some mental conditions, raise the risk of cognitive impairment and possible dementia.
These include such conditions as learning disabilities, Down’s syndrome, kidney disease, rheumatoid arthritis, HIV, and multiple sclerosis.
These other conditions can also contribute:
- Depression: The link between depression and dementia is believed to originate because of brain changes from the depression diagnosis. Experts believe the best way to prevent dementia through depression is to avoid depression altogether.
- Traumatic brain injuries: No matter how old you are now, if you’ve had a traumatic brain injury, and especially more than one, you could develop dementia later.
- Hearing issues: If your hearing began going downhill between 40 to 65 and continues to worsen, you could get dementia. Experts believe it’s because of isolation and mental strain through trying to hear.
- Cardiovascular diseases: Being diagnosed with a cardiovascular disease in mid-life (40 and onward), especially Type 2 diabetes when you’re 65 or older, can boost your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Many studies have concluded that if you’re White, you’re less likely to get dementia than someone who’s South Asian, Black Caribbean, or Black African.
These parties are at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease, hence the connection.
That said, there is still a lot of research that’s needed before we can definitively tie ethnicity to dementia as a risk factor.
The rate of dementia is higher in women because of their prolonged lifespans over men.
However, you’re only slightly likelier as a woman to get dementia compared to men when both genders are 80 years old. Experts are still trying to determine why.
Does dementia run in your family? If so, your chances are higher of developing dementia if your parents had it, although it typically won’t begin any earlier than your 50s or 60s.
There’s a difference between risk and familial genes, with the former more likely to contribute to dementia.
That said, risk genes don’t always cause dementia. The most significant risk gene when it comes to dementia is apolipoprotein E or APOE.
Not all APOE genes cause dementia, but the variants that affect your risk can increase it by four times.
What Are The Daily Habits That Lead To Dementia?
What does your daily routine look like? You might want to rethink it, as the habits you commit to now can boost your chances of getting diagnosed with dementia later.
- You socially isolate from others, whether due to depression, medical conditions, or illness.
- You smoke cigarettes every day, often several times a day.
- You drink alcohol excessively.
- You don’t get enough exercise and spend most of your time in a chair or on the couch.
- You don’t eat well, ingesting a lot of saturated fats.
- You don’t do enough to stimulate your brain, sticking to the same old, same old.
- You don’t consume enough water each day.
- You don’t get enough sleep.
While many factors increase your likelihood of developing dementia in older age, you have more control over them than you might think.
For instance, cognitive superagers know that taking good care of your health through eating well, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep can reduce your risk.
That’s also the case for staying hydrated, maintaining social connections, treating depression, and controlling your alcohol consumption.
Dementia may still be incurable, but we’re learning more about it all the time thanks to data and studies, including what causes it, so that one day we might have more control over preventing it.
Until then, taking good care of yourself can help you enjoy a higher quality of life now and in your later years.