Dementia: here are the 11 risk factors listed by scientists

Dementia: here are the 11 risk factors listed by scientists

Developing dementia or seeing a loved one drift away is the fear of many French people as they age. To better determine what can cause such a condition, English scientists have developed a list of the most common risk factors.

What is the risk of developing dementia? With increasing life expectancy, the question is more than ever at the heart of families and research. Although the causes of degenerative diseases have not all been identified, scientists are working to better outline the contours of these pathologies. A study published last August by the University of Oxford succeeded in establishing the 11 most common risk factors among people over 65.

The 11 most common factors

The scientists examined data from nearly 225,000 British residents with an average age of 60, following them for 14 years. During this period, around 2% were diagnosed with degenerative cognitive disease, which affects around 55 million people worldwide (and 1.2 million in Europe!).

Based on this information, researchers were able to identify 11 risk factors that appear to have the most impact:

  • Age (generally 65 and over);
  • Lack of education and instruction;
  • A history of diabetes;
  • History of depression or current depression;
  • A history of stroke;
  • Parental dementia;
  • An economic disadvantage;
  • High blood pressure;
  • High cholesterol levels;
  • Loneliness;
  • Being a man.

A list that allows you to better prevent the disease

This updated list (of factors that are modifiable or not) is not made to scare you, but to better address dementia and its onset. So, thanks to this statistical discovery, scientists were able to create a new screening tool developed based on the results, the UK Biobank Dementia Risk Score, or UKBDRS which could potentially be used by primary care providers to easily screen for this disease in people aged 50 to 73. “We view this as a first step in identifying high or low risks,” explains Dr. Patel, the first author of the study.

Compared to other existing screening tools, UKBDRS, combined with knowledge that individuals carried the APOE e4 gene variant, putting them at higher risk of dementia, yielded the most accurate results , followed by UKBDRS alone, and age alone.

Talk to your doctor as soon as you have the slightest question

The new screening device can also serve as a conversation starter, says Dr. Patel. Of course, some factors, such as being a man, or being 70 years old, or having cases of dementia in your family, cannot be changed. But uncovering other factors gives doctors the opportunity to encourage patients with diabetes, depression, high blood pressure and/or high cholesterol to make lifestyle changes that could reduce their risk. to develop this disease. A person with diabetes, depression, high blood pressure and high cholesterol is three times more likely than someone of the same age to develop dementia.

“You can really make a big difference in your risk by focusing on cardio-metabolic health”he said.

What is dementia?

Dementia is not a single disease. It is a collection of symptoms that correspond to a variety of disorders caused by abnormal changes in the brain due to disease or injury. Contrary to popular belief, dementia is not a normal part of aging.

According to the World Health Organization there are 5 types of dementia:

  • Alzheimer’s disease represents the majority of cases of dementia: 60 to 80%;
  • Vascular dementia, caused by impaired blood flow to the brain;
  • Lewy body dementia, abnormal deposits of proteins inside nerve cells. (The one that actor Robin Williams suffered from.)
  • Frontotemporal dementia, caused by degeneration of the frontal lobe of the brain. (The one suffered by actor Bruce Willis, who was recently diagnosed with this disease.)

In addition to the 11 factors mentioned above, other situations increase the risk of developing dementia:

  • Overweight ;
  • Smoking;
  • Drinking too much alcohol;
  • Be physically inactive;
  • Being socially isolated.

Symptoms that should alert you

Finally, certain signs may invite you to consult a doctor according to the World Health Organization (WHO). They do not mean that you have dementia (they can be a sign of depression, overwork too), but may possibly lead you to some checks with a health professional:

  • Change in mood or behavior;
  • Forgetting recent things or events;
  • Lose or misplace objects;
  • Getting lost while walking or driving;
  • Being confused, even in familiar places;
  • Losing track of time;
  • Difficulty solving problems or making decisions;
  • Problems following conversations or difficulty finding words;
  • Difficulty performing usual tasks;
  • Poor visual assessment of distances to objects

If in doubt about the person’s condition, the attending physician may possibly refer you to a specialist such as a neurologist, a psychiatrist, a psychologist or a geriatrician.

How to react to a loved one with Alzheimer's disease?

Slide: How to react to a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease?