A less healthy lifestyle increases the risk of dementia

The less healthy your lifestyle, the more you are at risk of developing dementia in later life, a new systematic review has shown. Researchers analysed the results of 18 studies with over 44,000 participants | BMJ Open | via National Institute for Health research

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Having two or more ‘modifiable risk factors’, including smoking, high blood pressure, poor diet, inactivity, obesity and excessive alcohol consumption, puts adults at greater risk of developing dementia.

The included studies followed up people without signs of cognitive decline to see who developed dementia of any cause.

A third of the studies could be combined in a meta analysis and these showed a 20% increase in the risk of dementia for one risk factor, which rose to 65% for two risk factors. The presence of three risk factors doubled the risk of dementia.

There was also a reduction in risk conveyed by having fewer risk factors and this, despite any direct evidence from intervention trials, holds out hope that interventions which either reduce or remove risk will lead to a reduction in the incidence of dementia diagnoses.

These results are consistent with our growing knowledge of the links between unhealthy lifestyles and dementia and are highly relevant to the promotion of healthy ageing behaviours in mid-life and beyond,  providing a compelling call to action in terms of public health and ageing.

Further detail at National Institute for Health Research

Full reference: Peters R, Booth A, Rockwood K et al. Combining modifiable risk factors and risk of dementia: a systematic review and meta-analysis. | BMJ Open | 2019 | 9:e022846.

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