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15 Early Onset Dementia Risk Factors: Discover The Easiest Way To Avoid Middle-Age Dementia

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15 Early Onset Dementia Risk Factors: Discover The Easiest Way To Avoid Middle-Age Dementia about undefined

It must be genetic. That’s what doctors have always assumed was the sole cause behind the three percent of dementia cases that occur before the age of 65.

But a major new study challenges this belief and points you down an easy road to ensure you and your loved ones don’t fall victim to early-onset dementia.

The Lancet Commission on Dementia in 2020 found 11 potentially modifiable risk factors responsible for a whopping 40 percent of all cases of dementia in older people. We’ve reported on the risk factors a number of times. But the new study found middle-aged people have a range of 15 risk factors that are even more significantly tied to the development of dementia and early onset Alzheimer's disease.

This means that, for the first time, instead of dismissing early-onset memory loss as genetic, dementia risk at a younger age can be targeted successfully with one easy step: By following simple health and lifestyle recommendations.

This is great news! Here’s what you need to know…

Key Takeaways

  • Alzheimer's disease is considered early onset before the age of 65.
  • There are 15 identifiable risk factors mostly related to lifestyle that research shows contribute to the development of early-onset dementia.
  • By addressing each risk factor for Alzheimer's disease, you can dramatically lower your risk of developing dementia at any age.

The Facts About Early Onset Alzheimer's Disease

Relatively little research has been conducted on young-onset dementia because it’s considered a genetic condition. But the rapid growth in diagnoses of the disease suggests this isn’t the case.

As we reported last year in Why More Young People Are Getting Alzheimer's, Blue Cross Blue Shield commercial insurance data reveals that between 2013 and 2017 diagnosis of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease combined increased five-fold in ages 30 to 44, quadrupled in those aged 45 to 54, and doubled in the 55 to 64 age group.

Genetics cannot explain this prolific increase in a mere four years; other factors must be responsible. So, neuroscientists from the U.K. and the Netherlands searched for these other factors.

Fifteen Risk Factors Identified For Middle Age Dementia

For their study they used the UK Biobank resource as it is one of the most comprehensive databases available for assessing increased risk of disease development. Their study included 356,052 dementia-free men and women under the age of 65 when they were enrolled between the years 2006 to 2010.

By the time participants were followed up with in 2021, 485 were given a diagnosis of young-onset dementia. The researchers found that out of the 39 potential risk factors identified from systematic reviews of late-onset dementia, they found 15 were significantly linked to dementia in middle-aged people.

These risk factors were:

  1. Hearing impairment
  2. Social isolation
  3. Vitamin D deficiency
  4. Lower socioeconomic status
  5. Carrying 2 apolipoprotein ε4 allele (genetic factors)
  6. Stroke
  7. Diabetes
  8. Heart disease
  9. Depression
  10. Lower formal education
  11. Lower handgrip strength (a measure of overall muscle strength)
  12. High C-reactive protein levels in the blood (a marker of inflammation)
  13. Postural hypotension (blood pressure that drops when moving from a sitting to a standing position)
  14. Non-alcohol drinkers
  15. Alcohol use disorder (dependency)

Not surprisingly, most of these fifteen risk factors are the same as for late-onset dementia and Alzheimer's disease. But there’s one glaring difference…

The first nine risk factors are the ones to watch out for if you want to avoid early-onset dementia.

Increased Dementia Risk Up To 225 Percent!

The first nine factors in the list increased the risk of dementia from 53 percent to an incredible 225 percent.

Although alcohol dependency doubled the risk of early onset dementia when compared to those who abstain from alcohol, it was the reverse for non-drinkers and moderate/heavy drinkers. Moderate to heavy drinking reduced the risk of early onset dementia when compared with non-drinkers!

That’s right, moderate drinkers (one or two drinks a day) had a 28 percent lower risk of early onset dementia when compared with non-drinkers, and heavy drinkers (greater than two drinks a day) had a 36 percent lower risk than non-drinkers. That’s right, heavy drinkers had a lower risk of dementia when compared to non-drinkers or even moderate drinkers. How can that be?

These unexpected findings were put down to what’s called the “healthy drinker” effect. This means alcohol may seem beneficial, but it isn’t because poor health causes some people to avoid drinking, or they can’t drink because alcohol would react with medications they take, or they may have quit after years of heavy drinking. In other words, many people are not drinking because of health challenges and their related treatments.

Certain Risk Factors Are More Important Than Others

Another important result from the dementia research: Lowering certain risk factors can give you “more bang for your buck” and significantly reduce your risk of dementia. Among them are education level and grip strength. For example, achieving better education (a higher academic degree) reduced the risk of dementia by 37 percent and a stronger hand grip lowered dementia risk by 42 percent.

On the flip side, certain risk factors that correlated with dementia risk are not as strongly related as others. These include high C-reactive protein and postural hypotension as both had weaker relationships with dementia. Of course, neither of these is good for your health and should be addressed with diet, exercise, and other lifestyle changes as soon as possible.

The Research Breaks New Ground

One member of the research team, Professor David Llewellyn, emphasized the importance of the findings, published in JAMA Neurology in December.

“This breakthrough study…is the largest and most robust study of its kind ever conducted. Excitingly, for the first time it reveals that we may be able to take action to reduce the risk of this debilitating condition through targeting a range of different factors."

Another research team member, Dr. Janice Ranson, added:

“Our research breaks new ground in identifying that the risk of young-onset dementia can be reduced. We think this could herald a new era in interventions to reduce new cases of this condition.”

Senior author Sebastian Köhler also commented:

“We already knew from research on people who develop dementia at older age that there are a series of modifiable risk factors. The fact that this is also evident in young-onset dementia came as a surprise to me, and it may offer opportunities to reduce risk in this group too.”

The takeaway to avoid Alzheimer's disease at any age is simple…

Lower The Risk Any Way You Can

While not all factors that apply to a person can be targeted, many can be.

For example, wear a hearing aid, meet up with friends often or do charity work, get safe sun exposure, and take vitamin D supplements, join an adult education class, perform exercises that work the muscles, and eat a diet that’s anti-inflammatory such as the Mediterranean diet or the Green Med diet, which are both high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, fish, and healthy oils.

Summary

The latest research into the development of Alzheimer's disease challenges the traditional assumption that early onset dementia is solely genetic. A major study now identifies 15 risk factors significantly associated with the development of dementia before the age of 65. The Lancet Commission on Dementia in 2020 found 11 potentially modifiable risk factors responsible for 40 percent of all cases of dementia in older people, and this new study extends the findings to middle-aged individuals, emphasizing the potential for targeted prevention through simple health and lifestyle recommendations.

The research, published in JAMA Neurology, breaks new ground by demonstrating that a wide range of modifiable risk factors are associated with young-onset dementia, providing opportunities for targeted interventions to reduce the risk of this debilitating condition. The study, which utilized the UK Biobank resource and included over 356,000 dementia-free individuals under the age of 65, offers valuable insights into the specific risk factors that significantly contribute to the development of dementia in middle-aged people. The findings emphasize the importance of addressing these modifiable risk factors through targeted interventions, potentially heralding a new era in dementia prevention for this age group.

Frequently Asked Questions

What triggers early onset dementia (Alzheimer's disease)?

Studies show there are between 11 to 15 identifiable risk factors for dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Here are 15 risk factors for early-onset dementia which include hearing impairment, social isolation, vitamin D deficiency, lower socioeconomic status, genetic factors, stroke, diabetes, heart disease, depression, and others. The study also reveals that certain risk factors, such as education level and grip strength, can significantly impact the risk of dementia, offering new opportunities for interventions to reduce the incidence of early onset dementia.

How your body warns you that dementia is forming?

The early warning signs of dementia can manifest in various ways, serving as indicators for individuals and their loved ones to seek medical attention. These signs include difficulties with everyday tasks, such as challenges in concentration, completing activities, or keeping track of time. Communication problems and repetition in speech or actions may also arise, along with instances of getting lost, especially in familiar settings. Personality changes and disorientation are additional warning signs to be mindful of, as they can significantly impact an individual's daily life and interactions. Furthermore, the presence of specific risk factors, such as hearing impairment, social isolation, vitamin D deficiency, and genetic predispositions, should be considered in conjunction with these warning signs, as they may contribute to the development of dementia, particularly in middle-aged individuals.

Can you slow down dementia if caught early?

Yes, there is evidence to suggest that dementia progression can be slowed down, particularly when interventions are implemented early. Several studies and reports have highlighted strategies for dementia prevention and risk reduction. For instance, the Alzheimer's Society highlights the importance of regular physical activity, healthy eating, and mental stimulation as ways to reduce the risk of developing dementia. While there is no guaranteed method to prevent or treat dementia, the research suggests that lifestyle modifications and early interventions can play a significant role in reducing the risk and potentially slowing down the progression of the condition. It is important for individuals to engage in activities that promote overall health and cognitive function, as these measures may contribute to a lower risk of developing dementia and support general well-being.

What age is considered early onset dementia?

Early onset dementia is a dementia diagnosis before the age of 65. A comprehensive evaluation, including a review of medical history, physical examination, and relevant assessments, can help differentiate dementia from other potential causes of symptoms.

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