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40 Percent of Alzheimer’s Cases Could Be Prevented or Delayed

November 24, 2020

While genetics, advancing age and other factors account for most cases of Alzheimer’s disease, a new study reported that 40 percent of the cases of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia could be prevented or delayed by targeting 12 modifiable risk factors throughout life. The findings underscore the potential importance of lifestyle factors in helping to keep memory sharp into old age.

The findings come from The Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention, Intervention, and Care, a group led by 28 international experts on Alzheimer’s and dementia that examined the scientific literature. The report added three new risk factors to an earlier report that identified nine risk factors that can contribute to dementia throughout life.

The three new risk factors are:

  • Avoiding head injuries in midlife, which contribute to an estimated 3 percent of dementia cases.
  • Excessive alcohol consumption, which contributes to an estimated 1 percent of dementia cases.
  • Avoiding exposure to air pollution, which contributes to an estimated 2 percent of dementia cases.

The nine other factors that the group previously identified, along with the estimated percent of dementia cases they contribute to, are:

  • Lack of formal schooling in early life (7 percent of dementia cases).
  • Hearing loss in midlife and beyond (8 percent of dementia cases).
  • Smoking (5 percent of dementia cases).
  • High blood pressure (2 percent of dementia cases).
  • Obesity (1 percent of dementia cases).
  • Depression later in life (4 percent of dementia cases).
  • Physical inactivity (2 percent of dementia cases).
  • Diabetes (1 percent of dementia cases)
  • Lack of social contact (4 percent of dementia cases)

The authors of the report offer nine recommendations that people and policymakers should take to help decreases dementia risk:

  • Try to keep systolic blood pressure (the top number) to 130 or less from age 40 and beyond.
  • If you are having hearing trouble, make sure to get a hearing aid, and protect the ears from loud noises that can cause permanent damage.
  • Avoid exposure to air pollution, including secondhand smoke.
  • Take measures to avoid head injuries, whether at work or sports.
  • If you drink alcoholic beverages, keep it moderate — no more than one to two drinks a day.
  • If you smoke, quit. Quitting smoking at any age has benefits that begin immediately.
  • Stay in school as long as possible.
  • Get regular physical activity throughout life. Starting exercising at any age has benefits that begin immediately.
  • Try to maintain a healthy weight, which can lower the risk of diabetes and other chronic ailments tied to dementia.

By ALZinfo.org, The Alzheimer’s Information Site. Reviewed by Marc Flajolet, Ph.D., Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation at The Rockefeller University.

Source: The Lancet Commissions: Dementia Prevention, Intervention, and Care: 2020 Report of the Lancet Commission. Vol. 396, August 8, 2020

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