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Healthier Lifestyle May Prevent 1 in 3 Cases of Dementia

Written by Alissa Sauer
 about the author
2 minute readLast updated April 10, 2023

From losing weight to quitting smoking, ending unhealthy habits may have a larger impact on your brain health than you ever imagined. Research shows that 35% cases of dementia are preventable through lifestyle changes starting in childhood. Learn more about this study and the power of lifestyle choices in dementia prevention.

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Lifestyle choices and their impact on dementia risk

Over one-third of all dementia cases may be preventable if people would make positive lifestyle choices that positively affect brain health, according to a recent report. Researchers believe that encouraging public health strategies encouraging people to be healthy, like regular exercise, protecting hearing, and staying in school, can have a significant impact on the global numbers of dementia.
The study, published in The Lancet, examined previous research linking risk factors for dementia throughout the lives of participants. Taking existing data, researchers calculated the potential impact that reducing risk factors could have on the global dementia epidemic.
Co-author of the study, Dr. Lon Schneider, a professor of psychiatry, neurology, and gerontology at the University of Southern California said, “Society must engage in ways to reduce dementia risk throughout life and improve the care and treatment for those with the disease. This includes providing safe and effective social and health-care interventions in order to integrate people with dementia within their communities. Hopefully, this will also ensure that people with dementia, their families and caregivers, encounter a society that accepts and supports them.”

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9 risk factors for dementia

The researchers found that avoiding nine targeted risk factors could cut the worldwide prevalence of dementia by 35%.
The nine risk factors for dementia are:
  1. Discontinuing education before the age of 15
  2. Untreated hearing loss in middle age
  3. Smoking after the age of 65
  4. High blood pressure
  5. Obesity
  6. Depression
  7. Physical inactivity
  8. Social isolation
  9. Diabetes in adults over 65
Specifically, the report found that if all young people stayed in school past the age of 15, the global number of dementia cases would be reduced by 8%. If all middle-aged people with hearing loss were treated, dementia would decrease by 9%. Finally, if all smokers older than 65 quit smoking, dementia would decrease by 5%.

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While more research is needed to understand how and why each of these factors contributes to dementia, studies have shown a clear link between these health conditions, lifestyle choices, and dementia risk.
Researchers acknowledge the limitations of the study, including that the study did not consider diet and alcohol use in their data, two factors that could also be a risk factor for dementia.


Meet the Author
Alissa Sauer

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