There are several factors that affect your risk of developing
dementia. Some you can change (such as smoking); some you cannot (such as
It is important to understand that a risk factor is not a cause.
For example, diabetes is a risk factor for both Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and
vascular dementia. That does not mean that diabetes causes AD or vascular
dementia. Not all people with diabetes develop dementia.
Risk factors associated with dementia include the following:
Atherosclerosis is the thickening
and hardening of the artery walls due to plaque buildup.
Plaque is made of cholesterol, fat, calcium, and other substances in the blood.
This buildup can narrow the arteries and interfere with the flow of blood to
the brain. This impairs the ability of your brain cells to function properly.
It can ultimately lead to the death of those brain cells and their connections
to other brain cells.
level of LDL (bad) cholesterol appears to increase your risk of developing
vascular dementia. This may be due, in part, to the association between
atherosclerosis and high cholesterol.
is an amino acid that naturally circulates in the blood. It is a building block
of protein. Recent studies suggest that a high level of homocysteine is a risk
factor for a number of diseases. These include Alzheimer’s disease, vascular
dementia, cognitive impairment, and stroke.
suggest that diabetes may be associated with an increased risk of developing
both AD and vascular dementia. Diabetes is also a risk factor for
atherosclerosis and stroke. Both of these conditions can contribute to vascular
Psychological and Experiential Factors
suggests that psychological and experiential factors may be a risk factor for
dementia. For example, studies have found that social isolation and not
regularly participating in cognitively stimulating activities may be associated
with an increased risk of developing AD.
Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)
MCI is a
clinical condition in which:
1) A person experiences memory loss greater than expected for his or
2) The memory deficit is enough to be noticed and measured.
3) The deficit is not enough to compromise a person’s independence.
For example, they can still take care of themselves and conduct their normal
Up to 50
percent of people with MCI develop Alzheimer’s disease (AD) within three years.
This means people with MCI may or may not progress to AD.
age, most people with Down syndrome have the plaques and tangles of
Alzheimer’s. Many also develop dementia.
Your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia,
and several other dementias increases with age. In the United States, 40
percent of people 85 years of age and older have dementia. Only five percent of
people between the ages of 65 and 74 have dementia.
Many forms of dementia seem to
have a genetic component. That means it often runs in families. In addition,
certain mutations in some specific genes have been identified as increasing
risk for developing dementia.
studies have found that smoking may significantly increase the risk of
mental decline and dementia. People who smoke have a higher risk of
atherosclerosis and other types of vascular disease. These may be the
underlying causes for the increased dementia risk.
have found that drinking large amounts of alcohol seems to increase your risk
of dementia. Other studies suggest that
people who drink moderately have a lower risk of dementia than either those who
drink heavily or those who don’t drink at all.