Dementia: Three common habits that can ‘increase risk’ – are you at risk?

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There are many different types of dementia, with Alzheimer’s disease being one of the most common. Currently, its causes are still being investigated by researchers, so there is no certain way to prevent all types of dementia. Nonetheless, there are some lifestyle factors which may help you stave off the condition.

Changing risk factors will not mean that you definitely do not develop the condition, but can make it less likely.

Imperial researcher doctor Ruth Peters has explored the latest research into the risk factors for dementia, and presented them for Imperial College London.

The researcher noted that excess alcohol, which means regularly drinking above the NHS recommended levels, “increases your risk”.

Current NHS guidelines say that to keep health risks from alcohol to a low level men and women are advised not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis.

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It also says that you should spread your drinking over three or more days if you regularly drink as much as 14 units a week.

Doctor Ruth Peters added that a poor diet and unhealthy eating habits can affect your risk of developing dementia, and that smokers have a higher risk of developing dementia than non-smokers.

Indeed, the NHS says: “ A diet that’s high in saturated fat, salt and sugar, and low in fibre, can increase your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, becoming overweight or obese, and type 2 diabetes.”

The “MIND” diet, short for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, can also bolster the brain against decline, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The Alzheimer’s Society (AS) says that although getting older is the biggest risk factor for dementia, evidence shows there are things you can do to help reduce your own risk.

As a person’s age increases, so does the risk of them developing dementia, though symptoms can vary widely from person to person.

Indeed, dementia doesn’t just cause memory loss. Dementia can affect how you think, feel, speak and behave.

The AS says “keeping your mind active” is likely to reduce your risk of dementia.

It adds: “Regularly challenging yourself mentally seems to build up the brain’s ability to cope with disease. One way to think about it is ‘Use it or lose it’,” the charity explains.

The NHS suggests that risk factors such as hearing loss, untreated depression, loneliness or social isolation, or sitting for most of the day, may also be important.“

The research concluded that by modifying the risk factors we are able to change, our risk of dementia could be reduced by around a third,” the health body says.

The NHS Health Check can help find early signs and tell you if you’re at higher risk of certain health problems that can also increase your risk of dementia.

It is a free check-up of your overall health for people aged 40 to 74 who do not have heart disease, diabetes or kidney disease, and have not had a stroke, and is offered every five years.

The AS notes that mid-life – from your 40s into your early 60s – is a good time to start taking steps to reduce your risk of developing dementia, though it is helpful to take steps at any age.

There are five more common types of dementia and these are Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies, frontotemporal dementia and mixed dementia.

By 2025, Dementia UK reports more than one million people will be living with dementia in the UK.

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