New Research Uncovers 15 Risk Factors for Young-Onset Dementia

New Research Uncovers 15 Risk Factors for Young-Onset Dementia

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  • New research reveals 15 risk factors for young-onset dementia.

  • The study’s findings challenge the notion that genetics are the sole cause of the condition.

  • Experts explain how this may apply to your risk for early-onset dementia.

With rates of dementia on the rise across the country, finding ways to reduce your risk seems more important than ever. But what causes brain health to decline? New research revealed 15 risk factors for young-onset dementia that may impact how experts address prevention methods for the disease.

A study published in JAMA Neurology followed more than 350,000 participants across the United Kingdom from the UK Biobank. Participants were under 65 years old and did not have a dementia diagnosis upon initial assessment. Researchers evaluated participants for an array of risk factors ranging from genetic predispositions to lifestyle and environmental influences.

Some of the risk factors associated with a higher risk of young-onset dementia named in the study include:

These findings challenge the idea that genetics are the sole cause of a young dementia diagnosis, and may help future prevention strategies.

Young-onset dementia happens before the age of 65, with late-onset dementia occurring after, says Dale Bredesen, M.D., neuroscience researcher and singleton chair in neurology at the Pacific Neuroscience Institute.

Young-onset dementia is relatively rare compared to a diagnosis later in life—however, instances of young-onset dementia are occurring at a rate higher than ever observed before, says Patrick Porter, Ph.D., neuroscience expert and founder of BrainTap. “This form of dementia can be particularly challenging because it affects individuals during their prime working years and can have substantial emotional, social, and financial impacts,” adds Porter.

According to Porter, the biggest risk factors for dementia in general include:

  • Age

  • Genetic factors

  • Lifestyle factors, including smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, poor diet, and lack of physical exercise

  • Medical conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, obesity, depression, and head injuries

  • Education and cognitive engagement

“The point of this study, given that dementia is a leading cause of death in the UK (as in the US and elsewhere), is to identify and address changeable risk factors, says Dr. Bredesen. “Most of those identified in this study are indeed modifiable, and thus there is hope that dementia incidence and ultimately prevalence will be reduced as a result of this study.”

As far as reducing your risk for dementia, Kavita Desai, Pharm. D., women’s health specialist, and founder of Revivele, recommends reducing daily stress, cutting back on alcohol, staying socially engaged, and prioritizing sleep quality.

It’s crucial to understand that while adopting certain strategies can mitigate risk, they do not provide absolute prevention against dementia, says Porter. “Individual differences, including genetic factors, play a significant role in one’s health and are not entirely within our control. However, embracing healthy habits can offer a broad spectrum of benefits for overall health and well-being.”

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