Revealed: Almost three-quarters of dementia cases are PREVENTABLE through simple lifestyle tweaks

Almost three-quarters of dementia cases could be preventable, a study has concluded.

Researchers looked at a huge list of 210 factors which could be linked to a greater risk of dementia.

They found among them 62 preventable likely causes of the condition.

These causes are estimated to be responsible for 47 to 73 per cent of dementia cases.

The knowledge could save hundreds of thousands of people from a devastating diagnosis, with dementia currently estimated to affect more than 900,000 people in the UK.

An unhealthy lifestyle, such as being sedentary, was found to contribute to more preventable cases of dementia

Too much time watching television and sleeping less than seven hours or more than nine hours were among the lifestyle problems linked to a higher risk of dementia, which people might be able to change.

Indeed an unhealthy lifestyle was found to contribute to more preventable cases of dementia – almost 17 per cent – than someone’s medical history.

Interesting new findings from the study are that feeling tense or ‘highly strung’ and rarely feeling able to confide in others might increase your risk of dementia.

But the most significant among the 62 factors include things  like frailty, measured by a weak hand grip, and medical problems like diabetes, disability or having had a previous stroke.

These medical risks too can be reduced by having a healthier lifestyle, like regular exercise and a healthy diet.

The study looked at more than 344,000 British people, who were questioned about their lives in detail for the UK Biobank health study and followed up for 15 years on average.

The 62 likely preventable causes of dementia were found because they were seen more often in the 4,654 study volunteers who developed the condition.

Professor David Smith, a co-author of the study from the University of Oxford, said: ‘There is still this view among many people that potentially getting dementia is an inevitable part of getting older.

‘But these results show dementia is far more preventable than may previously have been thought.

‘That is hugely important because, with no very effective treatments for dementia, preventing it from happening in the first place has to be our focus.’

The study, published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour, found lifestyle, including poor sleep, not having joined a sports club or gym, and inadequate water intake, could cause 16.6 per cent of dementia cases.

Medical history, most notably including disability, stroke, diabetes and depression, could be behind 14 per cent of cases.

Socioeconomic status, like being unemployed or having a lower income, which can make healthy choices harder, is estimated to account for 13.5 per cent of dementia cases.

The study also concludes that risk of dementia can be reduced through physical measures, like having a stronger grip, and may be affected by social and psychological factors like loneliness and isolation.

People’s local environment, like green space, was found to be less important, and early life, like whether you were breastfed as a baby, was not linked to dementia.

The study found people with a poor lifestyle could have a 62 per cent higher risk of developing dementia than those with a good lifestyle.

Improving all six categories – lifestyle, medical history, physical measures, socioeconomic status, social and psychological factors and local environment – from a poor to a good or intermediate level was estimated to prevent 47 per cent of dementia cases.

Improving them all to a good level was calculated to prevent 73 per cent of cases.

The results were seen for people regardless of their age or sex, and remained similar even taking into account people’s genetic risk of dementia.

Patrick Holford, chief executive of the charity Food for the Brain, which offers a free online questionnaire on dementia risk, said: ‘We already know having a healthy lifestyle can hugely reduce your risk of dementia, and since this condition is not reversible, people really do need to take the right steps in middle age to hold on to their cognitive function.

‘Dementia is an entirely preventable disease.’

What is dementia? 

A global concern 

Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of progressive neurological disorders (those affecting the brain) which impact memory, thinking and behaviour. 

There are many types of dementia, of which Alzheimer’s disease is the most common.

Some people may have a combination of different types of dementia.

Regardless of which type is diagnosed, each person will experience dementia in their own unique way.

Dementia is a global concern but it is most often seen in wealthier countries, where people are likely to live into very old age.

How many people are affected? 

The Alzheimer’s Society reports there are more than 900,000 people living with dementia in the UK today. This is projected to rise to 1.6 million by 2040.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, affecting between 50 and 75 per cent of those diagnosed.

In the US, it’s estimated there are 5.5 million Alzheimer’s sufferers. A similar percentage rise is expected in the coming years.

As a person’s age increases, so does the risk of them developing dementia.

Rates of diagnosis are improving but many people with dementia are thought to still be undiagnosed.

Is there a cure?

Currently there is no cure for dementia.

But new drugs can slow down its progression and the earlier it is spotted, the more effective treatments can be.

Source: Alzheimer’s Society