Three biggest risk factors for your dementia risk

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A new study from the University of Minnesota found nearly half of all dementia cases in the U.S. may be linked to a dozen modifiable risk factors – most notably high blood pressure, obesity, and physical inactivity.

The findings suggest a large portion of dementia cases could be prevented, especially among Black and Hispanic adults, who had the highest percentage of combined risk factors.

The study was presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention, Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health conference and was conducted by Mark Lee et al.

Currently, about 5.8 million U.S. adults live with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Previous research identified 12 modifiable risk factors believed to be responsible for roughly 40% of dementia cases worldwide.

A 2020 report by the Lancet Commission listed these as lower education level, hearing loss, traumatic brain injury, high blood pressure, excessive alcohol consumption, obesity, smoking, depression, social isolation, not getting the recommended amount of physical activity, diabetes, and air pollution.

In this study, the team compiled data from the CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and five other datasets.

They found overall, 42.4% of dementia cases in the U.S. were attributable to the 12 factors, with three heart-related factors driving the bulk of that risk across races.

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, contributed to 6.7% of those cases; obesity to 7%; and physical inactivity to 6.7%.

The percentage of dementia cases attributable to those three risk factors was highest among Black adults.

But the percentage of all 12 risk factors combined was highest among Hispanic people. Asian people had the lowest percentage of combined risk factors.

The team says the findings point to the need for better strategies to reduce heart-related risk factors, which would in turn reduce dementia risk population-wide.

Recent studies have found an antibiotic drug that could effectively treat common dementia, and this common food oil in the U.S. can change genes in the brain, which are highly relevant to the current study.

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Previous research found that some health problems can signal early dementia.

In a study from Mayo Clinic, researchers found pictures of the retina may someday provide early warning signs that a person is at an increased risk of stroke and dementia.

Studies have shown that people with severe retinopathy, damage to the light-sensing tissue at the back of the eye, are more likely to have a diseased-looking brain on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

But a retinal photo that shows a magnified look at the back of the eye, including the retina and optic nerve, is cheaper and faster to perform than an MRI.

In addition to the eye doctor’s office, retinal photos could be taken by a smartphone camera or via a smartphone adapter.

In this study, researchers examined the association of retinopathy with stroke, dementia, and the risk of death in 5,543 adults (average age of 56 years) between 2005 and 2008.

Compared with participants not diagnosed with retinopathy, those with retinopathy were:

More than twice as likely to have had a stroke; almost 70% more likely to have dementia; and more likely to die within the next 10 years, with each increase in the severity of retinopathy conferring a higher risk of death.

The team says if you have retinopathy, work closely with your primary care doctor to alter your vascular risk factors and ask to be screened for cognitive impairment.

You may be referred to a neurologist for evaluation and possibly a brain MRI.

If you care about dementia, please read studies about this drug may help treat Lewy body dementia, and mid-life heart disease prevention may prevent later dementia.

For more information about dementia, please see recent studies about dementia linked to Parkinson’s disease, and results showing these common jobs can increase dementia risk by more than half.

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