The diseases that lead to dementia can start to develop decades before any signs or symptoms are displayed. Although we don’t know the exact causes of all of these diseases, we do know about the kinds of factors that seem to put some people at greater risk of developing dementia than others. Most of these known risk factors are related to our lifestyles, and this means that we need to look after brain health from our 30’s and continue to do so into later ages.
It is important to realise that the brain is just an organ of the body, and that maintaining a healthy body will therefore help to maintain a healthy brain. In particular, our heart health is closely linked to our brain health and generally speaking, what is good for your heart will be good for your brain.
The following risk factors are some of the best understood, and trying to reduce these throughout our lifetime may help to reduce our risk of developing dementia.
• Cardiovascular risk factors: Brain infarcts, heart disease and mid-life hypertension increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and Vascular dementia. Smoking has also been identified as a risk factor.
• High cholesterol: Studies have shown that, high cholesterol in mid-life and late-life can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Subsequent studies have indicated that cholesterol lowering drugs may lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
• Diabetes: A recent study found that having diabetes increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 65%. This risk can be reduced by careful management of diabetes with medications that maintain blood glucose levels within a healthy range.
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