What are Dementia and Alzheimer’s?
Dementia is a syndrome – usually of a chronic or progressive nature – in which there is deterioration in cognitive function beyond what might be expected from normal ageing. It affects memory, thinking, orientation, comprehension, calculation, learning capacity, language, and judgment. Alzheimer’s is a degenerative brain disease that is caused by complex brain changes following cell damage. It leads to dementia symptoms that gradually worsen over time.
What is a risk factor?
A risk factor is something that affects your chance of developing dementia. A person's risk of developing a disease or condition is the chance that it will affect them over a certain period. For dementia, there is a mixture of factors – some that can be avoided and others that are impossible to control. However, having any of the risk factors does not mean a person will necessarily develop dementia in the future. Likewise, avoiding risk factors does not guarantee that a person will stay healthy, but it does make this more likely.
What risk factors cannot be controlled?
- Ageing – Above the age of 65, a person's risk of developing Alzheimer's disease or vascular dementia doubles roughly every 5 years.
- Genetics – Inheriting certain versions (variants) of the gene apolipoprotein E (APOE) increases a person's risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.
- Gender – Women are more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease than men. This is the case even if we allow for the fact that women on average live longer.
- Ethnicity – South Asian people seem to develop dementia – particularly vascular dementia – more often than white Europeans. South Asians are well known to be at a higher risk of stroke, heart disease, and diabetes, and this is thought to explain the higher dementia risk. Similarly, people of African or African-Caribbean origin seem to develop dementia more often. They are known to be more prone to diabetes and stroke.
What are the modifiable risk factors?
Certain risk factors could be modified to help prevent or delay up to 40 percent of dementias. Dementia is rising more in low-income and middle-income countries than in high-income countries, because of population ageing and higher frequency of modifiable risk factors. The modifiable risk factors are listed below:
- Hearing Loss
- Cognitive Inactivity
- Heavy Smoking & Alcohol Consumption
- Depression & Social Isolation
- Physical Inactivity & Obesity