Dementia is an umbrella term for complex conditions with symptoms impacting cognitive functioning of a person's daily life. Diagnoses like Alzheimer's disease or vascular dementia explain a collection of symptoms impacting a person's intellectual and social abilities once an individual's abilities have deteriorated from normal. While there are potential causes to a dementia diagnosis you cannot change, with forward thinking, changes in lifestyle choices and health decisions can lower individual risk of dementia.

Risk Factors You Can't Change

The Alzheimer's Association outlines risk factors toward Alzheimer's, and dementia in general, that a person cannot change. These risk factors usually increase a person's chance toward a diagnosis of dementia.

  • Age: The greatest risk factor for dementia is getting older.
  • Family History: People with parents, siblings, or children with dementia are more likely to develop it themselves, either because of environmental factors or genetics.
  • Genetics: Some genes are linked to specific diagnoses, like Alzheimer's disease.

Risk Factors You Can Change

Changing some facets of your lifestyle may decrease your risk of developing dementia. The Mayo Clinic reviews these pieces, and some of the steps a person can take in order to decrease their risk.

  • Alcohol Use: Moderating alcohol intake can decrease the chance of a dementia diagnosis. Any abuse of alcohol can increase this risk.
  • Blood pressure: Any blood pressure deviation from the norm may put you at risk for developing dementia. Further, high blood pressure can lead to a stroke, which can lead to vascular dementia.
  • Cholesterol: High levels of LDL, or “bad" cholesterol, have been linked with a significant increase in developing vascular dementia.
  • Depression: Especially in senior men, depression has been shown as an indicator a person might develop Alzheimer's disease.
  • Diabetes: Individuals with type 2 diabetes are at an increased risk for developing both Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia.
  • High Estrogen Levels: For women, high estrogen levels indicate a greater risk of being diagnosed with dementia.
  • Homocysteine Blood Levels: A type of amino acid in the body, elevated levels of homocysteine may increase your likelihood of a dementia diagnosis.
  • Smoking: Smoking increases the risk of vascular disease, putting you at greater risk of vascular dementia. Quitting smoking helps significantly decrease this risk over time.

Another risk factor recently discovered by researchers is a person's connection to others. In a study of subjects in a developing country, researchers found that socially isolated individuals were at an increased risk for developing dementia. Though these results have not been replicated in a developed country, maintaining social connection is potentially an important component of keeping a dementia diagnosis at bay.

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If you have concerns about any of the risk factors listed on this page and their impact on your life, please consult your doctor for a plan to decrease your risk.