A study presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in London reveals that a third of dementia cases could be prevented if more people looked after their own brain health throughout their life.

Published in the Lancet, the international report found that there are nine factors that contribute to the risk of dementia. They are:

  • mid-life hearing loss – responsible for 9% of the risk
  • failing to complete secondary education – 8%
  • smoking – 5%
  • failing to seek early treatment for depression – 4%
  • physical inactivity – 3%
  • social isolation – 2%
  • high blood pressure – 2%
  • obesity – 1%
  • type 2 diabetes – 1%

These risk factors – which are thought to be modifiable – add up to 35%. The other 65% of dementia risk is beyond the individual’s control.

“This is why at Pelham House we do everything we can to keep our residents stimulated and active,” said owner and manager Roger Waluube.

“We have a co-ordinator who manages a programme of regular and one-off activities or one-off events, as we know that keeping active is one of the best ways of treating early-stage dementia.

“Games, exercises and entertainment are key parts of life at Pelham House to keep residents engaged and stimulated,” Roger added.

But it seems that there are some measures we can take in earlier life to reduce the risk of dementia

“Although dementia is diagnosed in later life, the brain changes usually begin to develop years before,” said lead author Professor Gill Livingston, from University College London.

“Acting now will vastly improve life for people with dementia and their families and, in doing so, will transform the future of society.”

The research was carried out by 24 international experts who concluded that lifestyle factors can play a major role in increasing or reducing an individual’s dementia risk.

The researchers say they did not have enough data to include dietary factors or alcohol in their calculations but believe both could be important.

There are an estimated 47 million people worldwide currently living with dementia – 850,000 in the UK – and this figure is predicted to rise to 131 million by 2050.