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February 06, 2018

Surprising Things that Lower Your Risk Factors for Dementia

We've all heard the tips about remaining active, getting necessary screenings and eating well to complement brain health, but have you heard more other, more surprising tips that help to lower your risk of dementia – like, for example, being married? This post will look share some of these more surprising findings.

These surprising things could lower your risk factors for dementia

First, yes. Being married is linked to a decreased risk of dementia. Researchers reviewed data from 15 different studies that explored dementia and marital status, and they discovered that people who never marry have a 42% higher risk of developing dementia when compared to married couples. People who are widowed have a 20% higher chance, when compared to those who are married. Interestingly enough, researchers did not discover that people who are divorced have a different level of risk than those still married.

Experts involved in this research believe the protective effect of marriage most likely occurs because married people live a healthier lifestyle, generally speaking, and have more social interaction because of having a spouse. You can find more information about this study at AARP.org.

An article published in the New York Times shows a different risk factor: women with high blood pressure in their 40s have a higher risk of dementia in later years. A study, which began in 1964, collected health and lifestyle data on 5,646 men and women aged 30 to 35. Data was also collected when participants were in their 40s. In the period between 1996 to 2015, 532 were diagnosed with a form of dementia. Researchers then delved into which participants did, and their associated data.

Women who had high blood pressure in their 30s did not demonstrate a higher dementia risk, but those who experienced hypertension at the average age of 44 had a 68% higher risk, even when researchers adjusted for other risk factors. And, although high blood pressure in men was not a factor in their 30s and 40s, it does appear to be a risk factor for men in their 50s. The bottom line, the senior author of the study shared, is that “brain health is a lifelong issue . . . What you do in young adulthood matters for your brain in old age.”

Another AARP article recently reported on a linkage between dementia and artificial sweeteners, such as those used in diet drinks. This ten-year study indicated that people who drank at least one drink daily with artificial sweeteners were almost three times as likely to develop dementia than those who drank less than one such drink weekly. This data held true even when adjusting for other risk factors.

Dementia Risk: The Good News

ScientificAmerican.com shares a summary of studies that indicates how dementia risk among older adults in some high-income countries is decreasing. In fact, in these countries, dementia development has been steadily dropping now for 25 years. Some experts believe this “could lend credence to staying mentally engaged and taking cholesterol-lowering drugs as preventive measures.”

The article looks at the studies in some depth and interpretations of data are not always clear-cut. But, the text concludes, “Even if it is only a start of a trend, the likelihood of your getting dementia is getting smaller” – and that’s good news, indeed.

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