A new study highlighted three lifestyle choices that experts say could increase your risk of developing dementia.
One in 14 people over the age of 65 suffers from the debilitating brain disease, with around one in six people over the age of 80 being affected by the disease.
Researchers are still studying exactly how the condition develops, but a new study has identified factors that could increase the risk.
The study, published in the Neurology Journal, involved 4,164 people with an average age of 59 who took a test called Lifestyle for Brain Health (LIBRA), the Express reports.
The total score reflected a person’s potential for dementia, with 11 out of 12 lifestyle factors included in the test – including high blood pressure, heart disease, smoking, diet, and physical activity.
Participants in the study took memory tests and other thinking skills, such as information processing speed, executive function, and attention.
Researchers also looked at brain scans for signs of cerebral small vessel disease, which are signs of vascular brain damage often seen in people with dementia.
They found that people who were in the high-risk group on the LIBRA test, which indicates a less brain-healthy lifestyle, had three main lifestyle habits that increased their risk and lowered their test scores.
The researchers found that these habits influenced a person’s risk of dementia scores and lowered a person’s tests of thinking skills, altered brain scans, and had a higher risk of cognitive impairment:
high blood pressure
Studies show that high blood pressure, especially in middle age, significantly increases the risk of dementia.
Studies show that patients in a critical phase between 30 and 50 years of age are two-thirds more likely to develop the incurable brain disease.
High blood pressure poses a serious health risk as it damages and constricts blood vessels in the brain, making them more likely to rupture or block.
The World Health Organization warns that smokers have a 45 percent higher risk of dementia than non-smokers.
It is estimated that 14 percent of all Alzheimer’s cases worldwide are potentially due to smoking.
Dr. Shekhar Saxena, director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at WHO, said: “With no cure for dementia currently available, public health action must focus on prevention by changing modifiable risk factors such as smoking.”
“Research shows that a reduction in smoking in the coming years is likely to result in a significant reduction in the burden of dementia.”
Diets high in saturated and trans fats have been shown to increase cognitive decline and the risk of developing dementia.
Researchers found that both diet and exercise can potentially affect neurogenesis of the hippocampus – the process by which the brain makes new brain cells.
Study results suggest that altered neurogenesis in the brain may be an early biomarker of cognitive decline (CD) and dementia.
Factors such as exercise, diet, vitamin D levels, carotenoid and lipid levels have also been found to correlate with the rate at which cells die.
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