Alcohol consumption, air pollution and brain damage added to dementia risk model


Certain risk factors for dementia have to do with genes or ethnicity, but lifestyle is also important for the clinical picture.

Scientists previously used nine risk factors. Through combined research from several British universities, three have now been added: excessive alcohol consumption, air pollution and brain damage. The study results have been published in the medical journal The Lancet.

The other nine risk factors are: low-level education, high blood pressure, hearing loss, smoking, obesity, depression, physical inactivity, diabetes and little social contact. These factors are responsible for nearly 40 percent of dementia cases worldwide.

Philip Scheltens, professor of neurology and director of the Alzheimer’s Center, emphasizes that certain risk factors play a role in dementia, but considers air pollution to be a questionable point. “That is not 100 percent clear.”

Drinking excessively

In the Netherlands, cardiovascular diseases, such as high blood pressure, rank first, says Scheltens. “But factors such as diabetes, obesity and little social contact also play a role.”

Scheltens is satisfied that alcohol consumption has emerged as a clear risk factor from the British study. “In previous reports, this was not so clear, while we have long known that excessive alcohol consumption is a risk. So I am happy that this study proves that.”

Scheltens also has a few recommendations: “Do not smoke, try to exercise at least 20 minutes a day and keep an eye on your blood pressure.” He emphasizes that it can also help if you are socially active. “But,” he warns. “Social media is not part of that, because then you actually do nothing.”

The Lancet writes that national and international policy is important to minimize the risk factors for dementia, but that people themselves also have a great responsibility.

What is dementia?

Dementia is a clinical picture in which the mental faculties decrease drastically. As a result, someone is less able to perform daily activities, which were previously effortless, or not at all. Think of problems with getting dressed, preparing food, correct medication intake, or paying bills.

People with dementia live with the disease for an average of 8 years. During the disease process, both the number and the severity of the complaints increase. There is no cure for dementia. It is the most common cause of death in the Netherlands after cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Source: Alzheimer’s Netherlands


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