Health and lifestyle factors could increase risk of…

  •  Researchers in the UK and the Netherlands identified 15 risk factors

Dementia which strikes before the age of 65 could be less likely in people if they change lifestyle.

Young-onset dementia affects 70,800 people in this country.

Although it makes up only about 3 per cent of dementia cases, the memory-robbing condition is devastating. Now researchers have found 15 factors which could influence people’s risk.

They believe they are first to link social isolation and vitamin D deficiency to a higher risk. And young-onset dementia has also been found to share some potential triggers with dementia in older people, such as hearing impairment and being less active. These are issues that could be tackled by getting hearing aids or taking more exercise.

Experts say the results are hopeful, showing that a genetic risk of dementia at a young age is not the full story, and people can reduce their risk based on how they live.

Health and lifestyle factors could increase risk of young-onset dementia 

Professor David Llewellyn, a co-author of the study from the University of Exeter, said: ‘There has been a lot of focus on the genetic causes of young-onset dementia, but we wanted to look at other factors. We found there are things people can change about their lifestyle which might reduce their risk, so this type of dementia may be more similar to dementia in old age than we realised. This could help people think more about how to keep their brain healthy.’

Researchers, whose findings are published in the journal JAMA Neurology, looked at 356,052 adults aged 37 to 64.

Those categorised as socially isolated were about 50 per cent more likely to get dementia. Hearing impairment was linked to a 56 per cent higher risk and for those with a vitamin D deficiency the figure was 59 per cent. Those without a degree or similar qualification were also at a higher risk.

Having had a stroke, diabetes, heart disease or orthostatic hypotension were also factors.

Staying active and strong appears important, with people with an above-average grip strength having a 42 per cent reduction in their odds. Moderate drinkers had a 28 per cent lower risk than teetotallers, but that may be due to those who are less healthy and on certain medications being less likely to drink.

It has been suggested that the grapes in red wine could be good for the brain, but alcohol is generally harmful.

Problem drinking was linked to a higher risk. A genetic variation, in a gene called APOE, which is seen in about a quarter of people, is another factor, as is depression,

A sudden financial shock in middle age, like losing your job or most of your savings, could raise the risk of suffering dementia.

The stress of losing a large amount of money appears to speed up cognitive decline, at least in people aged 50 to 65.

A study, published in the journal JAMA Network Open, of 8,000 people found those suffering a financial shock were 27 per cent more likely to develop dementia.

What is early-onset dementia? 

Early or young onset Dementia (YOD) is defined as dementia which has been diagnosed under the age of 65.

 The common early symptoms of Dementia are:

  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Finding it hard to carry out familiar daily tasks, such as getting confused over the correct change when shopping
  • Struggling to follow a conversation or find the right word
  • Being confused about time and place
  • Mood changes

According to an NHS blog: ‘Unlike late onset dementia in which the commonest causes are Alzheimer’s disease, vascular or mixed dementia, YOD is more often due to rare causes, unusual presentations of the common dementias and genetic causes.’

Due to these rarer causes, the NHS say it can be harder to diagnose YOD, adding that there is often a delay in diagnosis. 

Following diagnosis, there should be a care plan in place which should set out what sort of care you, and people who care for you, might need.

Source: NHS