Who Usually Gets Dementia?
Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia usually affect people over the age of 65. The possibility of developing dementia increases with age, so up to half of the people aged 85 and older may have some form of dementia. This, however, doesn’t mean that dementia is a natural part of growing old and that you will get some form of dementia as you age.
Dementia represents a group of symptoms that damage person’s cognitive abilities, language skills, and behavior. The decline in these functions is severe enough to restrict a person’s daily life and everyday activities.
What are the Risk Factors for Dementia?
While we cannot with certainty say why some people develop dementia and others don’t, researchers have identified several factors that may increase the risk of developing dementia. These factors involve a person’s age, genes, lifestyle (smoking, alcohol abuse), mild cognitive impairment and certain health factors (cholesterol, atherosclerosis, diabetes), which increase the risk of developing dementia.
In most cases, the risk of dementia increases with age: almost 1 in 4 people aged 85-90 live with some form of dementia.
- Genetics and Family History
While dementia is not generally inherited, research has found a number of genes that increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. While many people who have relatives with Alzheimer’s never develop the disease themselves, we may inherit a certain combination of genes that increase the risk of dementia. Nevertheless, in most cases, dementia results from a combination of genes and environmental factors.
In some specific forms of dementia, such as Huntington’s disease, abnormal genes are clearly implicated as a risk factor.
- A Person’s Lifestyle
Studies have found that a person’s daily habits such as smoking significantly increases the risk of developing dementia. Smoking increases the risk of atherosclerosis. This condition interferes with the delivery of blood to the brain and can lead to stroke. As such, atherosclerosis may be a significant risk factor for vascular dementia.
Also, excessive drinking appears to increase the risk of dementia. At the same time, a healthy diet, regular physical exercise, mental and social activities are associated with a lower risk of dementia.
- Mild Cognitive Impairment
One study found that around 40 percent of people aged 65 and older who were diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment also developed some form of dementia within three years.
- Health Conditions
Research has found that health factors for dementia include obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.
It appears that high levels of LDL, the so-called bad cholesterol increase the risk of developing vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The same goes for diabetes. Diabetes is also a risk factor for stroke, which contributes to vascular dementia.
While dementia is most common after the age of 65 years, it is important to remember that most older people do not develop dementia. Dementia is not a normal part of aging, but a disease. Dementia can happen to anybody. While it mostly affects the senior population, people in their 40s and 50s can also have dementia.