Your neighborhood may affect your dementia risk

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In a new study from the University of Wisconsin, researchers found Middle-age and older people living in more disadvantaged neighborhoods had more brain shrinkage on brain scans and showed a faster decline on cognitive tests than people living in neighborhoods with fewer disadvantages.

These areas have higher poverty levels and fewer educational and employment opportunities.

Researchers say such brain aging may be a sign of the earliest stages of dementia.

Worldwide, dementia is a major cause of illness and a devastating diagnosis

There are currently no treatments to cure the disease, so identifying possible modifiable risk factors is important. Compelling evidence exists that the social, economic, cultural and physical conditions in which humans live may affect health.

In the study, the team identified 601 people from two larger studies of Wisconsin residents.

Participants had an average age of 59 and no thinking or memory problems at the start of the study, although 69% had a family history of dementia. They were followed for 10 years.

Researchers used the residential address of each participant and a measure called the Area Deprivation Index to determine if each participant lived in an advantaged or disadvantaged neighborhood.

At the start of the study, there was no difference in brain volume between people living in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods and those in other neighborhoods.

But at the end, researchers found brain shrinkage in areas of the brain linked to dementia in people in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods, while there was no shrinkage in the other group.

Researchers also found a higher rate of decline on tests that measure the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

The findings suggest that increased vigilance by healthcare providers for early signs of dementia may be particularly important in this vulnerable population.

The team says some possible causes of these brain changes may include air pollution, lack of access to healthy food and healthcare and stressful life events.

If you care about dementia, please read studies about this vitamin deficiency may cause dementia and findings of this unhealthy habit may cause Alzheimer’s disease.

For more information about dementia and brain health, please see recent studies about this common mental problem linked to faster development of Alzheimer’s disease and results showing that this type of work can increase dementia risk by over 50%.

The study is published in Neurology. One author of the study is Amy J. H. Kind M.D., Ph.D.

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