Risk Factors

Something is more likely to be a genuine risk factor if there is a plausible way in which it might make dementia more likely. A good example is the clear way that, because high blood pressure can cause strokes and strokes can cause vascular dementia, high blood pressure is a risk factor for vascular dementia.  

Some risk factors are seen as being modifiable and others you simply can’t change. These include:

  • Age: people diagnosed with dementia tend to be over the age of 65. Above this age, a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or vascular dementia doubles roughly every five years. Over the age of 80 there is a one in six chance of developing dementia,
  • Ethnicity: certain ethnic communities appear to be at higher risk of dementia than others. For example, South Asian and African or African-Caribbean people seem to develop dementia more often than white Europeans. Specific risk factors associated with these communities such as stroke, diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease, as well as differences in diet, smoking, exercise and genes, are thought to explain this,
  • Gender: more women are affected by dementia than men. Worldwide, women with dementia outnumber men two to one. Twice as many women over the age of 65 are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s than men whereas vascular dementia is diagnosed in slightly more men than women,
  • Genetics: in rare cases, Alzheimer’s disease can be passed from one generation to another. This type of dementia usually affects people under the age of 65.

Whilst a persons medical history can also undoubtedly affect their chances of developing dementia eg diabetes, obesity or severe head injuries, there are lifestyle choices that are a major factor also. 

We all have a wide range of choices about how we live our lives. Those choices can affect our general health and wellbeing. While there is no conclusive evidence that we can prevent the development of dementia, there is a general acknowledgement that there are some areas where poor lifestyle choices may increase the risk of developing dementia. That is, a poor diet, smoking, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, lack of exercise, and not keeping your brain active and stimulated through maintaining hobbies, interests and social interaction.


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