Dementia: Am I at Risk?
Everyone is technically at risk for developing dementia, but some people are at greater risk than others. Here, we will discuss the various known risk factors for developing dementia.
Age is the most significant factor affecting one’s likelihood of developing dementia. Dementia becomes more and more likely as we get older. Specifically, though dementia can occur at a young age, it is rare before the age of 65. Around 1 in 14 people over the age of 65 suffer from dementia, whereas approximately 1 in 6 of those over 80 do. Some studies estimate that half of people over 85 have dementia.
Dementia is hereditary, meaning that you are at greater risk for developing dementia if close family relatives have dementia. Both Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia have been shown to be linked to the gene apolipoprotein E.
The extent to which the brain is engaged through cognitive and social activities can have an impact on the likelihood of developing dementia. Generally, being more mentally active is thought to reduce the risk of developing dementia, though popular ‘brain training’ games have failed to demonstrate an ability to reduce the risk of dementia. There are abundant research efforts aimed at understanding how one’s mental life and habits specifically impact their likelihood of developing dementia.
Certain health problems increase the risk of developing dementia. Among these problems are cardiovascular disturbances, stroke, depression, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, HIV, chronic kidney disease, Down’s syndrome, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and high blood cholesterol. Head injuries, particularly repeated head injuries, also increase the risk for developing dementia.
Certain lifestyle factors can affect your likelihood of developing dementia because of their impact on your health. For instance, a diet high in saturated fat can lead to the cardiovascular issues that raise the likelihood of developing dementia. Similarly, smoking, drinking, and lack of exercise can adversely impact health, thereby increasing your risk for developing dementia.
Because dementia is not fully understood, it is impossible to protect yourself fully from any risk of developing it, particularly as you age. The best way to prevent dementia and other health problems is to live a healthy life, with a balanced diet, regular exercise, and little or no drugs and alcohol.
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