Having multiple lifestyle risk factors for dementia may predict dementia risk more than age. The corresponding study was published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia.
The latest Lancet Commission on dementia prevention, intervention, and care proposes that reversible lifestyle factors account for 40% of dementia cases worldwide. These lifestyle factors include low education, hypertension, hearing loss, traumatic brain injury, alcohol or substance abuse, diabetes, air pollution, smoking, and depression.
In the present study, researchers sought to examine the link between the number of modifiable risk factors for dementia and cognition. To do so, they analyzed data from 22, 117 people aged 18 to 89 years old who completed the Cogniciti Brain Health Assessment. The test included a background questionnaire and four cognitive tasks. The researchers then compared participants’ performance in memory and attention tests to eight of the modifiable risk factors for dementia listed above.
They found that each lifestyle factor led to a decrease in cognitive performance equivalent to around three years of aging and that each additional factor contributed the same amount of decline. This means, for example, that having three risk factors is similar to a decreased cognitive performance typical of nine years of aging. The researchers noted that this effect became more prominent as participants aged.
“While most studies of this nature look at mid- and older-adulthood, we also included data from participants as young as 18, and we found that risk factors had a negative impact on cognitive performance across all ages. This is crucial as it means risk factors can and should be addressed as early as possible,” says Dr. Nicole Anderson, Senior Scientist at the RRI, Associate Scientific Director of Baycrest’s Kimel Family Centre for Brain Health and Wellness, and senior author of this study.
The researchers noted that their findings mean that anyone can decrease their risk of developing dementia by addressing any risk factors they have now, regardless of their age.
They say that with additional funding, they may be able to investigate the differences between those who age normally and those who have identical cognitive performance to those several decades younger than them.