Dementia is Top 3 Neurological Disorder According to New Research

By on November 4, 2020
Neurological disorder

As the baby boomer population — defined as adults born from 1946 to 1964 — continues to age, experts predict that there may be a nationwide increase in dementia cases. As a result, many older adults and their loved ones may wonder whether they are at risk for a neurological disorder. Is there’s anything they can do to prevent it? LivingBetter50 has what every woman over 50 needs to know about dementia risk factors. How you may be able to lower the chances of developing the condition.

Dementia risk factors: What are they and what do they mean?

There has been increased research on how our lifestyle issues affect dementia risk. Organizations such as the Alzheimer’s Association, the American College of Neurology, and the World Health Organization (WHO) have issued guidelines on how to reduce your risks. Most recently, The Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention published a new report that identifies 12 risk factors. An increase from nine risk factors included in the Commission’s 2017 report. 40 percent of dementia cases worldwide have shown links to these risk factors.

Several of these risk factors are modifiable, meaning that individuals may be able to decrease their level of risk if they avoid or change certain behaviors. According to The Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention, modifiable dementia risk factors include: 

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  • Excessive alcohol consumption in midlife
  • High blood pressure in midlife
  • Midlife hearing loss
  • Midlife obesity
  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI) in midlife
  • Depression later in life
  • Diabetes later in life
  • Physical inactivity later in life
  • Smoking later in life
  • Social isolation later in life

Reducing your risk of dementia

Activity levels

Diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, physical activity, and smoking fall into the category of “lifestyle issues”. They also relate to an individual’s level of vascular health. Researchers aren’t entirely sure why vascular health is linked to dementia risk. Keeping your body’s blood vessels functioning well promotes blood flow to the brain. This in turn affects the mental processes involved in learning, problem-solving, remembering, and thinking.

Alcohol consumption

Avoiding excessive alcohol consumption may reduce your risk of developing dementia. Alcohol is toxic to multiple organs, including the brain. Excessive alcohol use is defined as consuming eight drinks or more per week for women and 15 drinks or more per week for men.

Head injuries

Avoiding Traumatic Brain Injury’s, such as concussions, can prevent brain damage that could eventually contribute to the onset of dementia. Studies over the last 30 years have shown individuals who experience moderate, severe, or repeated mild TBIs may have an increased risk of developing dementia years after the original head injury occurred. It’s important to know that there’s no evidence that a single TBI increases dementia risk, and more research is needed to determine the exact link between TBIs and dementia.

Hearing loss

Even hearing loss may not seem like it’s a modifiable risk because it may be related to aging or other factors beyond your control. Often hearing loss is treatable and therefore is considered modifiable. Confusion, forgetfulness, and unresponsiveness that may appear to be related to memory loss could actually be caused by hearing loss. This prevents an individual from understanding others and it is assumed that a neurological disorder has onset. Women over 50 should consider getting their hearing checked to rule out any problems before pursuing cognitive testing.

Loneliness and depression

Similar to hearing loss, depression and social isolation may cause dementia-like symptoms. Social isolation can occur as we age and experience the loss of family and friends or conditions that may prevent us from socializing. Eye problems or hearing loss cause older women to miss family and social events. Evidence links loneliness and social isolation with depression. Depression and dementia share similar symptoms such as memory problems and trouble concentrating. Depression can often be treated with medication or talk therapy, and steps can usually be taken to increase the amount of social contact you have with others.

Ongoing research

Researchers are looking for new ways to prevent and treat dementia especially because the number of dementia cases is expected to increase due to the aging population. Studying lifestyle interventions that can effectively target dementia risk factors and protect memory in older adults is unique because researchers are studying causation, or “cause and effect”. This is helping them learn whether interventions to address modifiable risk factors make a difference, and what specific effect the interventions have on clinical trial participants.

Although there’s still much to learn about dementia, preventive medical care, and lifestyle choices as you age may help reduce your dementia risks. To summarize things you can do to potentially reduce your risk of dementia:

  • Get regular exercise and eat a healthy diet to prevent diabetes and obesity
  • Quit smoking
  • Control blood pressure to ensure that it remains within a healthy range
  • Prevent head injuries
  • Limit alcohol consumption
  • Get your hearing checked and use hearing aids, if necessary
  • Seek help from a medical professional if you experience symptoms of depression
  • Stay socially active and connected to others, especially later in life

Research shows that managing specific health and lifestyle behaviors may decrease your risk of developing dementia. Understanding your dementia risk factors and taking steps to change your lifestyle may preserve your memory and cognitive abilities as you age.

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Dementia is Top 3 Neurological Disorder According to New Research