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Report: Smoking, obesity and early-life education may affect dementia

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


Strong evidence linking healthy lifestyle to low dementia risk

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.

– Dr Eric Karran, Alzheimer's Research UK

Health experts call for campaign to highlight how lifestyle affects dementia risk

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 smoking and early-life education can affect your risk of developing dementia, the report finds Credit: PA

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.

Increased Alzheimer's risk 'in long-term sedative users'

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.

Long-term users in particular seemed to have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer's. Credit: Anthony Devlin/PA Archive

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.


'Tackling physical inactivity' could battle Alzheimer's

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.

– Professor Carol Brayne.

'Cheap' Alzheimer's eye tests an 'important step'

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.

– Dr Simon Ridley, Alzheimer's Research UK

Eye tests an 'initial screen' for Alzheimer's detection

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.

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