A senior woman with her head in her hand looking into the distance.

4 Common Risk Factors for Dementia

To those for whom “I think, therefore I am” resonates, dementia can be an incredibly frightening prospect. Dementia is an umbrella of cognitive disorders. These involve “loss of memory, language, problem-solving and other thinking abilities that are severe enough to interfere with daily life” (Alzheimer’s Association).

Speaking about risk factors for dementia may seem like poking a bear, but we do believe that prevention goes a long way. Studies suggest that a large percentage of dementia cases could be prevented, delayed, or slowed. This can be accomplished by social or behavioral changes.

Of course, many of the risk factors that lead to dementia are unpreventable. Certain genetic factors as well as race, class, and socioeconomic status can contribute to dementia.

However, the news isn’t all bad. Certain dementia risk factors are modifiable, and lifestyle changes can impact patient outcomes. Additionally, early diagnosis truly does make a difference for dementia outcomes. Knowing the risk factors of dementia can literally save lives.

The 4 Main Dementia Risk Factors

Doctors have no definitive way to predict any one individual’s risk of dementia. However, science has discovered many of dementia’s risk factors. Adapted from Stanford Healthcare, the following are some of the biggest known risk factors for developing dementia.

1. Age

As we age, our risk of developing dementia increases. For every 100 people between the ages of 65 and 69, about 2 individuals will have dementia. This risk doubles every 5 years, meaning that for every 100 90-year-olds, 33 people will have dementia. The longer we live, the more time dementia has to develop in our brains.

2. Genetics

A family history of dementia is not a guaranteed diagnosis, but genetics do play a factor in these conditions. Several abnormal genes, gene mutations, and genetic illnesses can contribute to the development of dementia.

3. Lifestyle Factors

Certain lifestyle factors play a role in dementia. These are the easiest risk factors to modify to prevent dementia. Studies suggest that excessive smoking and drinking to excess both contribute to one’s chances of getting dementia. Lack of physical activity and poor diet both contribute to cognitive decline, as well.

4. Health Conditions

You know that genetic health conditions can contribute to dementia. Unfortunately, there are several diseases that can increase the likelihood of a diagnosis. These illnesses include diabetes, mild cognitive impairment, traumatic brain injury (TBI), depression, and high blood pressure.

Modifiable Risk Factors for Dementia

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Dementia is not an inevitable part of old age, though it does become more likely in our elder years. Thankfully, we can do something about this! We have the power to make some lifestyle changes to reduce our dementia risk.

These are known as “modifiable risk factors” for dementia because they can change a prognosis or outcome. Modifiable risk factors include:

  • Lack of physical activity
  • Smoking
  • Drinking in excess
  • Obesity
  • Hypertension
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Hearing loss

If you have one or more risk factors for dementia, we encourage you to talk to your doctor. They can work with you to find the best ways to get healthier. Remember that “modifiable” does not mean “curable”. You can’t erase your depression or hearing loss, but you can find help.

Weight loss, healthier eating, and quitting your vices are not a magic bullet that will repel dementia. However, engaging in healthy behaviors will be good for both your body and your mind! Depression is a major risk factor for dementia. Incorporating movement and whole foods into your diet can help with a number of these risk factors.

How to Fight the Biggest Risk Factors for Dementia

The best way to fight dementia risk factors is to live a holistically healthy lifestyle. Find balance in your habits. Engage with friends over a nice meal, but don’t forget to move your body and take your medicine too. Being proactive about your mental health is just as important as caring for your physical health!

Dementia isn’t entirely preventable, but it is treatable. If you believe that a loved one is experiencing cognitive decline or memory loss, be sure to speak to their physician. Lastly, if the care and keeping of a senior with dementia is too challenging, we are here for you at The Moments. We’re committed to providing unparalleled memory care.

Published On: March 27, 2024