Preventing Dementia: Causes and Risk Factors | – Guide

Status: 05/02/2022 11:45

Dementia is the progressive loss of mental abilities. There are many forms of dementia: Alzheimer’s is the best known form. Dementia can be prevented or at least postponed for years.

In order to prevent dementia, it is important to start early to keep the brain fit. The brain is very sensitive. If harmful processes, such as Alzheimer’s deposits, start, nerve cells die. The brain therefore no longer functions as usual and dementia occurs: memory, orientation and daily skills are affected. There are genetic risks, but lifestyle also plays a role. Good mental fitness also significantly reduces an individual’s risk of dementia. A new blood test today also promises early diagnosis of the disease.

Obesity, lack of exercise, and high blood pressure increase the risk

What is bad for the body is also bad for the brain: factors such as obesity, lack of exercise and high blood pressure increase the risk of developing dementia. Thinking about your brain early in life is important because brain health is decided in middle age. Changes in the brain occur 20 years before the onset of dementia.

have the researchers 12 factors identified that can be effective in preventing oblivion. The results were calculated from data around the world. Since the living conditions, i.e. the starting position, differ in the regions, not all factors have the same importance in all countries. For people in Germany, in particular, high blood pressure tablets and Hearing helps the surprisingly positive effects.

risk factors for dementia

In the so-called Livingston Study, the International Commission for Dementia Prevention, Intervention and Treatment, in the Lancet journal, came to the conclusion that, in addition to genetic and other unknown and therefore unavoidable causes, there are also a number of modifiable risk factors of dementia. Avoiding all harmful factors could reduce the risk by up to 40% and help slow cognitive decline.

1. Poor education at a young age (7%)
2. Untreated hearing loss (8%)
3. Brain injuries (3%)
4. High blood pressure (2%)
5. Alcohol consumption (1 percent)
6. Obesity with BMI greater than 30 (1%)
7. Smoking (5%)
8. Depression (4 percent)
9. Social isolation (4%)
10. Lack of exercise (2%)
11. Air pollution (2%)
12. Diabetes (1%)

Factors 2 to 6 are effective if they are already taken into account in middle age. Avoiding factors 7 to 12 can help reduce risk at any age, even in old age.
Interpretation: For example, anyone who avoids hearing loss in middle age – that is, by wearing hearing aids – reduces the likelihood of developing dementia by an average of 8 percent.

Plus, it’s worth protecting your head from bumps and falls for the rest of your life. Even minor damage that goes unnoticed at first can put a strain on the brain. No balls to the head and a bicycle helmet protect the sensitive brain. It is always about exerting as little effort on the brain as possible and actively creating a mental reserve. Memory training, stress management, and sufficient sleep also have protective effects. All of this can help ensure that deposits resulting from Alzheimer’s, for example, cause fewer memory problems. According to current knowledge, the formation of deposits cannot be prevented with a healthy lifestyle, but their effects can be mitigated and delayed.

Movement drives the heart-brain axis forward

The heart has a key function for the brain. It pumps blood to fuel the brain because it uses 20 percent of our energy. If the supply to the brain is limited due to heart failure, changes in the genetic pattern of nerve cells can occur and performance decreases. (Study).

Healthy blood vessels and healthy blood pressure are important for the heart and brain. In many dementia diseases, hypertension is a decisive cause, doctors even speak of vascular dementia. Exercise lowers high blood pressure and helps send fresh blood to the brain. Exercise also builds hormone-producing muscles. Animal experiments have shown that these so-called myokines migrate to the brain. There they ensure, for example, that certain growth factors are released more and more. These, in turn, help nerve cells connect and communicate better with each other, so movement enhances learning.

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Prof. Thomas Duning © Screenshot

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Dementia can be prevented or at least postponed for years. How does it work? 6 minutes

Coordination exercises reduce the risk of dementia

Researchers are convinced that the brain can be resilient to dementia by strengthening mental and cognitive reserve. This can prevent the deterioration of mental functions. It is never too late for this, because the human brain has the ability to transform well in old age.

A well-connected brain can even compensate for nerve damage. Dresden researchers are currently developing an exercise program that should also help with the dementia risks of depression, lifelong stress and loneliness: coordination exercises, such as a combination of balance and dance exercises, stimulate the brain.

The research team is developing something that does not yet exist in this form in the prevention of dementia: the blended program aims to promote body, mind and soul at the same time and thereby reduce the physical, mental and intellectual risks of dementia. The program called “Remind” will soon be available online, so it should be featured in every living room as a means of preventing dementia.

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Additional information

Senior woman plays chess with her granddaughter.  © picture alliance / photo library |  Thomas Imo / photo library

Anyone who learns languages, maintains social contacts and keeps moving can stay mentally fit into old age and prevent dementia. moreover

An elderly woman supports her head with her hand.  © picture alliance Photo: Patrick Pleul

Dementia is usually recognized very late. A new blood test now promises early diagnosis of the disease. moreover

A woman measures the blood pressure on a patient's upper arm.  © COLORBOX Photo: Poprotskiy Alexey

Studies indicate that even slightly elevated blood pressure values ​​can increase the risk of dementia. moreover

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