Nine lifestyle changes can cut dementia risk

Study highlights combination of factors

One third of dementia cases can be prevented with some basic lifestyle changes and better education during childhood, a study published in The Lancet said on Thursday.

Nearly 50 million people around the world suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s according to the latest estimates. This figure could balloon to 132 million by 2050. The nine factors that damage the brain notably include hearing loss, obesity and smoking, the study found.

“Our results suggest that around 35% of dementia is attributable to a combination of the following nine risk factors: education to a maximum of age 11-12 years, mid-life hypertension, mid-life obesity, hearing loss, late-life depression, diabetes, physical inactivity, smoking, and social isolation,” the study said.

It said if people stayed in school until the age of 15, the benefits of education and socialisation would help reduce the cases of dementia by 8%. “Although dementia is diagnosed in later life, the brain changes usually begin to develop years before,” said lead author Professor Gill Livingston, from University College London.

Good hearing

The researchers said maintaining good hearing between the ages of 45 and 65 reduces the number of cases by 9%. Stopping smoking could reduce the number of cases by 5%.

Other factors contributing to the risk include depression (4%), physical inactivity (3%), social isolation (2%), high blood pressure (2%), obesity (1%) and type 2 diabetes (1%).