Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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Lifestyle Factors Trump Aging in Dementia Risk

Recent evidence shows that lifestyle factors contribute more to dementia risk than aging. Risks, including smoking and diabetes, have been found to have a more significant effect on acquiring this disease than the aging process.1 Studies looked at participants from 18-89 years old and found that identifying and modifying behaviours earlier in life can prevent a decrease in brain function in the long term.1 The new research is outstanding since it is one of the first studies to look at risk factors from all stages of adulthood, as opposed to only the later years.1 

Researchers specifically looked at the following eight risk factors:

1. low education (less than a high school diploma),

2. hearing loss,

3. traumatic brain injury,

4. alcohol/substance abuse,

5. hypertension,

6. smoking,

7. diabetes,

8. and depression.2

These factors led to a decrease in cognitive performance equivalent to three years of aging.2 Each additional risk variable adds to another three years of aging. Having two risk factors would lead to a combination of six years of aging as it relates to decreasing cognitive performance.1

The results of this research are crucial since lifestyle factors can modify habits leading to dementia.1 In addition, studies have shown that age-related cognitive decline begins in early adulthood.2 Knowing this, individuals can begin to modify their behaviours at an earlier age.1 Research showed that younger adults were likelier to have smoking be a problem.2 Therefore, this group of younger adults could potentially preserve brain function by quitting smoking at an earlier age.2 In addition, in whatever age group, health factors such as diabetes can be managed, and hearing loss can be addressed.1

Hope for aging

Another positive outcome of this research was that older adults with no risk factors had a higher chance of preserving their brain function.2 In fact, those aged forty to seventy with no risky behaviours, had similar cognitive performance to those that were 10-20 years younger.2

Those in the older age group were more likely to have at least one risk element and a more significant effect with increasing age.2 However, since the dangers are modifiable, the research suggests that adults can maintain their cognitive performance as they age.1

Steps for the future

Dementia is considered the most prominent global health challenge in this era.2 This research highlights the necessity for studying dementia prevention and contributing modifiable risk factors.2 Evidence shows which risk factors are more prevalent in certain age groups. For example, smoking in younger adults and hypertension in older adults are commonly found variables.2 Knowing this information is significant. The awareness demonstrates that individuals can modify their habits at an early age to prevent or delay the onset of dementia, and specificity of prevention messages can be used in public health campaigns.2


  1. EurekAlert!. (2022, July 13). EurekAlert! official website. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/958611.
  2. LaPlume AA, McKetton L, Levine B, Troyer AK, Anderson ND. The adverse effect of modifiable dementia risk factors on cognition amplifies across the adult lifespan. Alzheimers Dement (Amst). 2022;14(1):e12337. Published 2022 Jul 13. doi:10.1002/dad2.12337

Mandie Freire BKin
Mandie Freire BKin
A dedicated healthcare professional working in the specialty of cardiac ultrasound, Mandie also holds an undergraduate degree in Kinesiology and is currently completing her MBA. Passionate about health and wellness, Mandie is also a certified fitness and yoga instructor.


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