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This Month In Health
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  • Sharp as a Tack
    A scary reality, dementia is feared by aging adults. Want to know if you’re at an increased risk for developing dementia? Here are a few of the top risk factors. Read >>
Health and Fitness News

Sharp as a Tack

Seven risk factors for dementia

It may start with forgetting someone’s name or frequently losing your car keys, but as dementia progresses, it can lead to more severe problems with memory, behavior, and social abilities. When you hear about dementia, you may be confused as to what it means. Dementia isn’t a disease, but a word to describe symptoms of brain diseases that have various causes. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, but there are other diseases that could be responsible as well.

A scary reality, dementia is feared by aging adults. The good news is that there are treatments to slow its progression and lessen symptoms. The type of medication used to treat symptoms depends on what brain disease you have.

Want to know if you’re at an increased risk for developing dementia? Here are a few of the top risk factors.


One of the biggest risk factors for dementia is aging. The older you are, the more likely you are to begin having cognitive decline. Unfortunately, aging is one risk factor that is completely out of your control. Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia are two common types of dementia that are closely connected to aging, becoming much more common in those over the age of 65.

Family History

Just like you can’t stop getting older, you can’t do anything to change your family health history. That’s right—genetics play a role in dementia. While you may appreciate having your mom’s smile or your dad’s eyes, you may have also inherited genes that increase your chances of developing certain types of brain diseases. If your parents or grandparents had dementia, chances are higher that you will too, though it’s not guaranteed.


Sometimes, people drink to forget the past. Do that enough, and that may be exactly what happens. That’s because heavy drinkers are more likely to develop dementia. Interestingly, alcohol isn’t all bad for your brain. Studies show that a moderate amount of alcohol may actually work to protect your brain from dementia when compared to people who drink heavily or not at all. (Heavy drinking is considered having more than two drinks a day for men and more than one a day for women.)

Dementia is our most-feared illness, more than heart disease or cancer. - David Perlmutter


When fatty substances such as cholesterol build up in the arteries, you develop a disease called atherosclerosis. Caused by obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, or inflammation, atherosclerosis is the leading cause of stroke, heart disease, and peripheral artery disease. It’s also a major contributor to dementia. This is largely because clogged arteries restrict blood flow to the brain. Without a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients, the brain can’t function at its full potential.


The lifestyle factors that contribute to atherosclerosis are also those that increase your risk of dementia. Smoking is one of those risk factors. Inhalation of toxic chemicals leads to the deterioration of artery walls, thickening of the walls, and buildup of plaque which blocks blood flow to all parts of the body, including the brain. The end result? Increased risk for dementia.

High Cholesterol

Vascular dementia is often caused by high levels of LDL, the bad type of cholesterol. Alzheimer’s may also be related to high cholesterol. While genetics play a role in high cholesterol, there are lifestyle habits that contribute as well. Reduce your risk of high cholesterol and dementia by eating a diet low in saturated fat, getting regular exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight.


Uncontrolled high blood sugar is another risk factor for dementia. The high blood sugar associated with diabetes damages your blood vessels and can cause dangerously high levels of bad cholesterol and low levels of HDL (the good cholesterol). Diabetes puts you at risk for vascular dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, and atherosclerosis.