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Are you at risk of developing dementia?

Find out if you, or someone you know, is at risk of developing dementia

In a nutshell

No-one can predict with certainty whether they’ll get dementia, though research suggests some people are more likely to develop it than others. Whilst increasing age is the most common risk factor (and there’s nothing you can do about getting older!) there are plenty of other risk factors you can do something about. Follow the advice below and you could cut your risk of developing dementia quite considerably.

Three facts worth knowing

1. By the age of 80, one in six people will have dementia.

2. A family history of dementia can make you more prone to developing it in later life, but your chance of inheriting a ‘dementia gene’ (which will virtually guarantee you get dementia) is extremely rare.

3. Medical conditions such as strokes, heart disease, high blood pressure, head injuries, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, HIV, chronic kidney disease and Parkinson’s can also increase your risk of developing dementia.

Did you know? Some research has suggested that people who suffer from depression or who are underweight could also be at higher risk, but this research isn’t conclusive and more evidence is needed.

Your 5-step plan

A large UK study has revealed some fascinating insights into the effects of ageing on the brain. The study, by researchers at Edinburgh University, followed 1000 men for 30 years (from their 40’s to their 70’s) and found that those who followed these five simple lifestyle choices reduced their risk of developing dementia by as much as 36 per cent.

1. Give up smoking
2. Take regular exercise (this could mean a 30 minute brisk walk three to five times a week).
3. Reduce the amount of alcohol you drink (heavy drinking can lead to a loss of brain tissue).
4. Follow a Mediterranean type diet containing oily fish, nuts seeds and olive oil.
5. Reduce your risk of diabetes (which is also associated with dementia) by losing weight if you need to and by following all the other advice above.

Don’t panic

If you smoke, drink heavily, rarely take any exercise or eat lots of junk food there’s plenty you can do to help yourself now – it’s not too late.

Good to know

•  Since head injuries can also be linked to dementia (especially if you’ve had more than one), you should always wear protective gear (including safety helmets) while taking part in sport.

•  Research suggests that people who read regularly, or do crosswords or puzzles are less likely to develop dementia than those who don’t.