Research shows healthy lifestyle can reduce dementia risk

HALIFAX, N.S. — New research is further revealing that the risk of developing dementia can be substantially reduced by leading a healthier lifestyle, including cutting down on drinking, head injuries and exposure to air pollution.

The details are in a new report published in The Lancet medical journal.


Dr. Kenneth Rockwood, professor in Dalhousie University’s department of medicine, specializes in geriatrics, frailty and dementia. He is part of the Lancet’s Commission on dementia prevention, intervention and cure, which includes 28 international experts in the field.


Rockwood, who’s been studying dementia since 1979, said early perceptions that you can’t prevent it no longer hold.


"Yes, there is a genetic predisposition in a lot of people," he said, adding that the extent of that risk varies. "But we also know there’s a lot of people who develop dementia in late life who don’t have, apparently, a genetic predisposition, so they’re getting it on some other grounds. And the other grounds on which they’re getting it includes a number of things that we can actually help with."


He cited high blood pressure, diabetes, lack of exercise and being sedentary as significant examples.


The Lancet commission, which has been meeting since 2016, compiled a report with nine risk factors in 2017. Those included less education, hypertension, hearing impairment, smoking, obesity, depression, physical inactivity, diabetes, and low social contact.


 "So we have a body of work now showing that the degree of frailty increases the risk, not just you’ll get those abnormal proteins, but that those abnormal proteins will be expressed in you as clinically detectable dementia."

 – Geriatrics specialist Ken Rockwood


This year, three more risk factors were identified: excessive alcohol consumption, traumatic brain injury, and air pollution, according to the article, which can be found online through this link. "


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