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Dementia Risk Factor That Could Make Your Brain Older By As Much As 3 Years

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A new study published today found that people without risk factors for dementia like smoking, diabetes, or hearing loss had brain health comparable to those 10 to 20 years younger.

The study discovered that a single dementia risk factor could decrease cognition by up to three years.

Our findings imply that for defining someone’s degree of cognitive functioning, lifestyle factors may be more significant than age. The study’s lead author, Dr. Annalise LaPlume, notes that this is fantastic news since there are many things you can do to change these risk factors, such as managing your diabetes, taking care of your hearing loss, and obtaining the help you need to stop smoking.

The authors claim, this is one of the first studies to examine potential lifestyle risk factors for dementia in people of all ages.

“While most studies of this nature look at mid- and older-adulthood,” explains Dr. Nicole Anderson, Senior author of this study, “we also included data from participants as young as 18.” 

And they “found that risk factors had a negative impact on cognitive performance across all ages. This is crucial as it means risk factors can and should be addressed as early as possible.”

The report, released today in the Alzheimer’s Association journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment, and Disease Monitoring, includes data from 22,117 individuals aged 18 to 89 who completed the Baycrest-developed Cogniciti Brain Health Assessment.

Participants took the examination from the comfort of their own homes by accessing the Cogniciti website (https://cogniciti.com/). The approximately 20-minute test comprises of a background questionnaire and four cognitive exercises.

The researchers examined the impact of eight modifiable risk factors for dementia on participants’ performance on memory and attention tests: low education (less than a high school diploma), hearing loss, traumatic brain injury, alcohol or substance abuse, hypertension, smoking (currently or within the past four years), diabetes, and depression.

Each component led to a three-year drop in cognitive performance, with each additional factor contributing the same amount.

For instance, having three risk factors may result in a decline in cognitive function that is comparable to nine years of aging.

Risk variables’ effects and numbers grew with age.

Overall, our research demonstrates that you have the ability to lower your risk of cognitive deterioration and dementia, according to Dr. LaPlume.

“Start addressing any risk factors you have now, whether you’re 18 or 90, and you’ll support your brain health to help yourself age fearlessly.”

Alzheimer’s Society of Canada and NSERC supported this research.

Image Credit: Getty

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