Excessive drinking, exposure to air pollution, and head injuries all increase dementia risk, experts say in a report revealing that up to 40% of dementia cases worldwide could be delayed or prevented by addressing 12 such lifestyle factors.
This may not sound positive on the outset, but what the research reveals is that while some risk factors for dementia cannot be changed, many other factors depend on lifestyle, suggest that dementia is “potentially preventable.”
The report from the Lancet Commission on dementia prevention, intervention, and care builds on previous work revealing that about a third of dementia cases could be prevented by addressing nine lifestyle factors, including midlife hearing loss, depression, less childhood education, and smoking.
The research weighs up the latest evidence, largely from high-income countries, supporting the addition of a further three risk factors to the list. It suggests that 1% of dementia cases worldwide are attributable to excessive mid-life alcohol intake, 3% to mid-life head injuries, and 2% a result of exposure to air pollution in older age – although they caution that the latter could be an underestimate.
It is also important to note that while some actions can be taken on a personal level to tackle such issues, many require government-led change. The report includes a list of nine recommendations, including improving air quality, and urges policymakers to “be ambitious about prevention”.