Alcohol, isolation, hearing: researchers identify 15 risk factors linked to early dementia

Alcohol, isolation, hearing: researchers identify 15 risk factors linked to early dementia

Contrary to what one might think, genetics are not the only cause of early dementia. A team of researchers has just identified numerous factors, environmental or associated with lifestyle, which could increase the risk of developing this disease which occurs before the age of 65. A discovery that could help establish new strategies to prevent early dementia or reduce the risk.

These findings challenge the idea that genetics is the sole cause of (young-onset dementia) and lay the foundation for new prevention strategies“. It is in these terms that a team led by researchers from the universities of Exeter (England) and Maastricht (Netherlands) presents the fruit of its research. The latter highlights no less than 15 factors which could increase the risk of early dementia, also called early onset dementia, which most often results, according to Public Health Europe, in behavioral disorders such as psychosis or mood disorders.

The personal, family and social consequences of these early-onset dementias are devastating. People affected are most often of working age and their continued employment is quickly called into question”, underlines the French national agency. Which estimates that 6 to 10% of all cases of dementia occur between 60 and 65 years, and recalls the importance “of being able to quantify the weight of this pathology in order to adapt the system to the specific medico-social care of these forms of early dementia“.

The team of European researchers did not set out to assess the burden of early-onset dementia, but to determine risk factors, other than genetics, which could be involved in the development of the disease. Large-scale work based on the monitoring of 356,052 participants aged under 65 from the UK Biobank, a large-scale biomedical database and research resource containing information on genetics, mode of lives and health of half a million Britons. Published in the journal JAMA Neurology, their research highlights 15 risk factors that can significantly increase the risk of early dementia.

Loneliness, alcohol, depression

Genetic predispositions are indeed among these risk factors, but they are not the only causes of early dementia. Researchers also discuss alcohol use disorders, social isolation, low educational attainment, lower socioeconomic status, vitamin D deficiency, depression, stroke, disorders hearing, diabetes, or even heart disease. “This is the largest and most robust study of its type ever conducted. Excitingly, for the first time, it reveals that we could act to reduce the risk of this debilitating disease by targeting a range of different factors.“, explains Professor David Llewellyn, of the University of Exeter, in a press release.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 55 million people live with some form of dementia worldwide, with up to 9% of cases identified as young-onset dementia. The health authority already recommends reducing the risk of cognitive decline and dementia through regular physical activity, stopping smoking, reducing alcohol consumption, or even a healthy and balanced diet. But this new work could make it possible to go even further in the prevention strategy to be adopted on a large scale.

We are seeing a transformation in the understanding of dementia risk and, potentially, how to reduce it at both an individual and societal level. In recent years, there has been a growing consensus that dementia is linked to 12 specific modifiable risk factors, such as smoking, blood pressure and hearing loss. It is now accepted that up to four in ten cases of dementia worldwide are linked to these factors.“, comments Dr Leah Mursaleen, head of clinical research at Alzheimer’s Research UK. And concludes: “This pioneering study sheds important and necessary light on the factors that may influence the risk of dementia in young people. It begins to fill an important gap in our knowledge. It will be important to build on these results in larger studies.“.

Early onset dementia: 10 signs that should alert you

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