Some lifestyle factors increase the risk of dementia, and a new study identifies the main risks for Americans: obesity, physical inactivity, and a lack of high school diplomas.
Researchers have found that the most important variable risk factor for dementia in the United States has changed over the past decade. In 2011, the top three were physical inactivity, depression, and smoking.
Today, lack of exercise is still among the top three, but other spots have been replaced by obesity in middle-aged and low-educated (non-high school graduates).
At the same time, research shows that the top three are not the same for everyone: the main variable risk factors for dementia vary slightly depending on race and ethnicity.
Obesity was №1. Among white, black, and Native American adults, factor 1, and lack of exercise was a major risk factor for Asian Americans. Among Hispanic Americans, however, the level of educational entertainment turned out to be a variable risk factor.
“Our results show that people can reduce their risk of Alzheimer’s disease [other types of] by leading dementia to a healthy lifestyle, ”said researcher Deborah Barnes, a professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco.
The biggest risk factor for Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia is old age, which people cannot change. Genetic flexibility is another key player; For example, people who carry a gene called APOE4 are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those who do not.
However, it is estimated that about 40% of dementia cases worldwide may be due to variable risk factors, said Rebecca Edelmeier, senior research director at the Alzheimer’s Association.
These include the top three factors found in the study, as well as factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heavy drinking, and hearing loss.
The reasons for these connections are not entirely clear, said Edelmeier, who did not participate in the new study. But it is considered a way to cardiovascular health. Obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking and sedentary lifestyle all damage the blood vessels that nourish not only the heart but also the brain.
“The strongest information we have is that what is good for your heart is good for your brain,” Edelmeier said.
As for knowledge, researchers believe that it helps through the “cognitive reserve” hypothesis: People with higher education may be better equipped to withstand the pathological changes of the brain observed in dementia, as well as retain memory and thinking skills for a long time.
The current results were published on May 9 in the journal JAMA Neurology. They are based on more than 378,000 U.S. adults who participate in a government health survey each year.
Overall, researchers estimate that 37% of national health conditions are related to one of 8 variable risk factors: middle-aged obesity, immobility, low levels of education, depression, high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, and hearing loss.
One reason, Barnes said, is widespread. Obesity has become more common in the last decade, so it contributes to more cases of dementia.
At the same time, he said, recent research has shown that the link between low levels of education and dementia is stronger than previously thought. Thus, researchers believe that this factor contributes to more cases of dementia among Americans.
However, the relative importance of these factors differs between different groups of Americans. Although there were differences between racial / ethnic groups, men and women showed some differences. Variable risk factors played a greater role in the risk of dementia in men – 36% vs. 36% in women.
Depression also contributed more to women than to men. Co-researcher Dr. Roch Nianogo is a fellow at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Public Health.
Nearly a quarter of women surveyed said they had been diagnosed with depression at some point.
According to Edelmeier, the study is now testing ways to curb the risk of dementia, in addition to finding associations.
“We think adopting a combination of healthy behaviors may be most effective,” Edelmeier said.
The Alzheimer’s Association is funding a test called POINTER in the U.S., which is testing a combo method among older people at high risk of dementia. Lifestyle activities include exercise, mental stimulation, and better control of high blood pressure and diabetes.
According to Edelmayer, the research employs people of color who have been shown less frequently in medical research. This study found that the highest variable risk factors for dementia varied in different groups of Americans.