3 risks for dementia--and 5 ways to reduce them

By John Murphy
Published November 24, 2020

Key Takeaways

Do you know the 12 modifiable risk factors for dementia? According to a recent report in The Lancet, these risk factors include undereducation, hypertension, hearing impairment, smoking, obesity, depression, physical inactivity, diabetes, low social contact, alcohol consumption, traumatic brain injury, and air pollution.

“Knowledge about risk factors and potential prevention, detection, and diagnosis of dementia is improving, although significant gaps remain,” wrote the authors of The Lancet report. 

In an effort to bridge some of those knowledge gaps, MDLinx lays out some of the risks and possible remedies for dementia.

Common conditions that raise dementia risk

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The prevalence of dementia is declining—that’s the good news. But the bad news is that deaths due to Alzheimer disease are on the rise. Specifically, the number of older Americans with dementia dropped 24% between 2000 and 2012. But the number of Alzheimer deaths rose 55% from 1999–2014, according to research cited by alzheimers.net.

Despite decreased prevalence of dementia diagnoses, risks still remain. Some of these risks stem from chronic diseases and other common conditions experienced by millions of Americans, such as diabetes and elevated cholesterol levels. Find out which other everyday illnesses are linked with higher dementia risk

Popular drugs raise dementia risk

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Common conditions, like those named above, aren’t the only contributors to dementia risk, of course. Mounting evidence indicates that two long-standing drug classes are also associated with an increased risk of dementia, and possibly Alzheimer disease, in long-term users. Read more about these two common drug classes that raise dementia risk

This common habit speeds up cognitive decline

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Research increasingly shows that what affects our minds also affects our bodies—and vice versa. For instance, a new study shows that a negative mindset can actually harm brain function. Researchers found that healthy older adults who exhibited higher “repetitive negative thinking” patterns experienced more cognitive decline. Could this mean that if you “think positively,” you can slow cognitive decline? See what else researchers found out about mood and cognitive health

Avoid dementia with this one simple activity

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What’s one of the most reliable ways to protect your brain from dementia (and many other ailments)? 

“Scientists have discovered a revolutionary new treatment that makes you live longer. It enhances your memory and makes you more creative. It makes you look more attractive. It keeps you slim and lowers food cravings. It protects you from cancer and dementia. It wards off colds and the flu. It lowers your risk of heart attacks and stroke, not to mention diabetes. You’ll even feel happier, less depressed, and less anxious,” said Matthew Walker, PhD, an author and professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley.

What is this mystery medicine? It’s not a pill, it’s not a procedure, and it’s not some wacky, unproven alternative therapy. Learn more about this “revolutionary new treatment” that protects against dementia and a range of other conditions. 

Foods that fight memory loss

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Here’s something to chew on: You can prevent dementia and even lower your “brain age” by eating the right foods. In fact, there’s a specific diet for it. It’s called the “Mediterranean-DASH Diet Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay” diet—or MIND diet for short. In a study, people who followed the diet closely slowed their rate of cognitive decline by the equivalent of 7.5 years. Would you like to be one of these “young-minded” people? If so, read up on these MIND-approved, brain-healthy foods.

The workout that de-ages your brain

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Most people understand the positive effect that exercise has on health, but they might not know just how crucial aerobic movement is in keeping our bodies and minds sharp. A new study, for example, paints a promising picture of how a few simple aerobic workouts per week can improve cognitive function. See which aspects of brain health can benefit from aerobic exercise. 

Evidence-based ways to prevent cognitive decline

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Cognitive decline impairs quality of life, threatens independence, and places more burden on an already-strained healthcare system. Fortunately, there are interventions that help keep the brain sharp and nimble. We’ve already mentioned diet and exercise as methods to combat cognitive decline. Find out which other evidence-based lifestyle interventions may not only stave off cognitive decline but also boost cognitive faculties.

5 simple brain workouts to fight cognitive decline and boost productivity

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Contrary to popular belief, not all cognitive processes decline with age. For instance, vocabulary is stable and may actually improve as we grow older. But other things—like memory, conceptual reasoning, and processing speeds—do decline somewhat over time. And for some faculties, such as perceptual reasoning and processing speeds, declines vary widely among different people. 

This raises the question: If physical exercise can improve bodily health, can mental exercise improve brain health? Yes, indeed. Check out these mental exercises that can help prevent cognitive decline and enhance your memory and productivity.

Keep following MDLinx to stay up to speed on cognitive decline, dementia, and Alzheimer disease research. 

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