A new report has made the case for raising awareness about the way lifestyle choices can affect your risk of dementia later in life.
It points out "there is no evidence strong enough at this time to claim that lifestyle changes will prevent dementia on an individual basis". However, evidence suggests the following could result in a lower risk:
- Stopping smoking
- Improved detection and treatment of diabetes and hypertension
- Increased physical activity and reduction in levels of obesity
- Education in early life
Dr Eric Karran, director of research at charity Alzheimer's Research UK, has welcomed today's report, saying:
Although there is currently no certain way to prevent dementia, this report underlines strong evidence suggesting we can lower our risk by adopting a healthy lifestyle.
A large body of research has linked high blood pressure, smoking and diabetes to an increased risk of dementia, and this analysis serves as another reminder that good heart health is an important route to good brain health.
Studies have also suggested that education in early life may help build a level of 'cognitive reserve', helping the brain to withstand the damage from diseases like Alzheimer's for longer in later life.
Health experts are calling for a major campaign to educate people about how their lifestyle choices can affect their chances of developing dementia in old age.
Factors such as early-life education, blood pressure and smoking can all play a role, according to a report commissioned by Alzheimer's Disease International.
The report argues for a campaign with a central message that "it's never too late" to make lifestyle changes, and that brain health should be factored into other public health campaigns.
Alzheimer's Disease International said that a major survey of 8,500 people from six countries showed that many are not sure how to reduce the risk of developing dementia.
Alzheimer's Research UK has stressed it was "hard to know the underlying reason" after a study linked a popular sedative to an increased risk of developing Alzheimer's.
Benzodiazepines have been shown to cause memory problems as part of their side effects and so it is difficult to tease out cause and effect in studies such as this.
We need more long-term research to understand this proposed link and what the underlying reasons behind it may be.
A new study "reinforces the suspicion of an increased risk of Alzheimer-type dementia among benzodiazepine users, particularly long-term users," French and Canadian researchers said.
The scientists identified 1,700 elderly people with Alzheimer's disease and more than 7,000 healthy people for comparison.
Past use of benzodiazepines for three months or more was associated with an increased risk of developing Alzheimer's, according to the study's results.
The risk varied between 43% and 51% and the strength of association increased with the longer exposure, they said.
A popular sedative has been linked with an increased risk of developing Alzheimer's disease in a new study.
Benzodiazepines, which are widely prescribed to treat anxiety and insomnia, have been associated with a heightened risk of developing the condition, particularly for long-term users, according to researchers.
Researchers cautioned that unwarranted long-term use of the drugs should be considered a public health concern.
The study, published in The BMJ, examined data from a health insurance database in Quebec.
Professor Carol Brayne, from Cambridge University's Institute of Public Health, said Alzheimer's could be tackled simply by becoming more active:
Simply tackling physical inactivity, for example, will reduce levels of obesity, hypertension and diabetes, and prevent some people from developing dementia as well as allowing a healthier old age in general - it's a win-win situation.
The development of a quick, cheap, non-invasive test to detect Alzheimer's would be an important step in helping people to receive an early diagnosis, the head of science at Alzheimer's Research UK has said, after new research suggests that regular eye tests could help detection.
It is difficult to diagnose Alzheimer's disease accurately and, in many cases, by the time the symptoms have developed, damage has already been going on in the brain for a number of years.
It is too soon to determine whether these types of tests will be useful for diagnosis of dementia and we would need to see the results of larger trials before drawing any firmer conclusions.
Regular eye tests could "complement" existing procedures as an initial screen in diagnosing Alzheimer's, the Australian science agency the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has said. Shaun Frost, who led one of the studies, added:
If further research shows that our initial findings are correct, it could potentially be delivered as part of an individual's regular eye check-up.
The high resolution level of our images could also allow accurate monitoring of individual retinal plaques as a possible method to follow progression and response to therapy.
Regular eye tests could in future be used to diagnose early-stage Alzheimer's, new research suggests.
Early trials of two different techniques show that a key Alzheimer's biomarker can be identified in the retina and lens of the eye.
Both methods were able to distinguish between probable Alzheimer's patients and healthy volunteers with a high level of accuracy.
Although the research is still at an early stage, further work could see such tests used as a first step in identifying individuals with Alzheimer's. Early diagnosis of Alzheimer's is essential to developing effective treatments that do more than alleviate the condition's symptoms.