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Scottish researchers have created a list of specific environmental factors that could increase the risk of dementia.

That we can take certain steps to reduce our risk of dementia by making lifestyle changes is now well established by the scientific community. It’s often through actions such as giving up smoking, doing exercise, losing weight and getting an education.

Now Edinburgh University’s Alzheimer Scotland Dementia Research Centre has drawn up a list of environmental factors that could also have a bearing on dementia risk, the two biggest being air pollution and vitamin D intake.

The researchers reviewed dozens of studies and found a lack of vitamin D (which is produced by the sun when it hits the skin), exposure to air pollution and occupational exposure to some types of pesticides could all play a part in dementia risk. They also identified potential risks for minerals found in some drinking water, although results were more mixed.

They are now calling for more research into these environmental factors.

Dr Tom Russ, of the Alzheimer Scotland Dementia Research Centre, said:

‘Our ultimate goal is to prevent or delay the onset of dementia. Environmental risk factors are an important new area to consider here, particularly since we might be able to do something about them.

‘We found that the evidence is particularly strong for air pollution and vitamin D deficiency. But we really need more research to find out whether these factors are actually causing dementia and how, and if so, what we can do to prevent this.’

This news on environmental risk factors comes at the same time as research claiming sudden low pressure and dizziness could also pose a risk for dementia.

A study published in the journal Plos Medicine found moments of light-headedness, frequently caused by low blood pressure could be linked to dementia. This is because less blood is reaching the brain, which could lead to cell damage over time.

Prof Tom Dening, from Nottingham University, described the research as ‘an important study’. He added:

‘The suggestion is that feeling dizzy, which results from a fall in blood pressure, may interfere with the circulation of blood round the brain and that over time, this causes damage which may contribute to dementia.

‘This is a plausible hypothesis and has support from other research. It is possible that something else may be going on.’

For more information on lifestyle factors that can increase dementia risk, click here.

Sources: BBC Scotland & BBC health news