There are many factors which contribute to the likelihood of developing dementia, and the causes of an individual case are seldom clear. Further complicating research is the multitude of dementia diseases – most commonly Alzheimer’s, which itself has several different forms. A common misconception is that Alzheimer’s is part of ageing, but in fact Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of ageing, and can even occur in individuals as young as 30.
Common risk factors for Alzheimer’s Disease:
- Family History
Having first degree relatives (parent, sibling, etc.) who have developed the disease is a common risk factor. Family genetics, as well as shared environmental and lifestyle factors contributes.
- Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)
Individuals with a current diagnosis of MCI – cognitive issues which may be notable to friends and family, but to not hinder everyday activities – are at higher risk of their MCI developing into Alzheimer’s.
- Cardiovascular Health
A healthy heart is closely linked to a healthy brain. The brain requires a healthy flow of blood being pumped for nourishment, and therefore poor cardiovascular health can contribute to a higher risk of developing cognitive impairments such as Alzheimer’s.
Statistically, those with more years of education are at lower risk of Alzheimer’s, although it is not proven why. Research suggests that more years in education builds a stronger ‘cognitive reserve’, which aids an individual’s brain to compensate for the development of dementia.
- Brain Engagement
Staying socially active, as well as cognitively active, reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s. By simply maintaining social relations, and engaging the brain through study, work, reading, or other activities, will keep the brain’s function challenged.
- Brain Injury
Suffering a traumatic brain injury at any stage of an individual’s life increases risk of developing a cognitive impairment later in life. This is most worrying for athletes in combative sports, who have suffered multiple head injuries throughout their careers.