Nine factors that increase the risk of Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other cognitive abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases.
Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging. The greatest known risk factor is increasing age, and the majority of people with Alzheimer’s are 65 and older. But Alzheimer’s is not just a disease of old age. Approximately 200,000 Americans under the age of 65 have younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease (also known as early-onset Alzheimer’s).
One case of dementia out of three could be avoided by trying to reduce nine risk factors for the development of the disease from childhood and across our lifetime, according to a study published July 20th and quoted by AFP.
Almost 50 million people worldwide suffer from dementia (including Alzheimer’s), according to the latest estimates, but their number is forecast to reach 132 million by 2050, according to an editorial of the medical journal Lancet, which published the study of Professor Gill Livingston from the University College of London (UK).
The three most common risk factors to act upon for reducing the number of dementia cases are education, hearing and tobacco, according to a report analyzing the impact of these nine health and lifestyle factors at different stages of existence.
Thus, raising the level of education at the beginning of life reduces the total number of cases of dementia by 8% if people finish high school.
Also keeping a good mid-life hearing (ages 45-65) would reduce the incidence of cases by 9%, while quitting smoking in people aged over 65 would reduce cases by 5%.
Other possible measures to reduce the number of cases concern blood pressure (representing 2% of cases of dementia) and obesity (1% of cases) in people aged 45-65 and the fight against depression (4% of cases), lack of physical activity (3%), social isolation (2%) and diabetes (1%) in people over 65 years of age.
The study provides the proportion of all cases of dementia that could be prevented if the risk factors were completely eliminated. If removal of these factors could prevent dementia from occurring in one of three cases (35%), finding a way to counteract the major genetic risk factor associated with Alzheimer’s disease, characterized by the presence of a version of a gene called “APOE4”, would avoid less than one case out of 10 (7%), according to the study.