Dementia risk reduction

Dementia is likely to be a clinically silent disorder that begins in mid-life (ages 40-65 years) with symptoms manifesting at later stages of dementia. [1]

Significant benefits can be gained addressing modifiable risk factors to reduce the risk of, or delay the onset of, dementia. If average onset age could be delayed by 5 years, the global incidence of dementia would be halved by 2050.[2] Delaying dementia for some years would enable many more people to reach the end of their lives without developing dementia.

The ‘Life-course model of contribution of modifiable risk factors’ to dementia (attached diagram identifies nine potentially modifiable risk factors at different stages of life that, if well-managed, may delay or prevent more than a third of cases of dementia).

Management of vascular risk factors in 40-65 year olds is key to reducing the risk of future dementia

Non-modifiable risk factors

  • Age
  • Genetics
  • Family history

Modifiable risk factors

  • Hypertension
  • Hypercholesterolemia
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Excess alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Hearing loss
  • Social isolation
  • Limited cognitive activities
  • Education
  • Repetitive head injury

Key risk reduction strategies

Key risk reduction strategies include:

  • Increased physical activity (e.g. 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity walking or equivalent)
  • Social engagement (increased number of social activities per week)
  • Cognitive training and rehabilitation

Despite the growing evidence on dementia risk reduction, half of Australian adults are unaware of the potential of dementia risk reduction activities. Some Australians associate mental activity with reduced risk, but very few are aware of the important link between vascular risk factors and dementia.

There is a need to increase individual and community awareness and recognition of risk reduction strategies to reduce the likelihood of developing dementia and delaying the onset of dementia. While there is yet no cure for dementia, addressing these modifiable risk factors with patients may help to reduce the incidence of dementia.

Other possible risks

Hearing Loss

Preventing hearing loss may be important in reducing risk of dementia in later life.

Hearing loss should be checked and managed in mid-life (evidence unclear if hearing aids prevent/delay onset of dementia - prevention is aim).

32% of people aged older than 55 years have hearing loss.

Livingston G, Sommerland A, Orgeta V, Costafreda S, Huntlet J, Ames D, et al. Dementia Prevention, intervention, and care. On-line; 2017 July 20, 2017.

Farrow M. Dementia Risk Reduction: A Guide for General Practitioners. March 2010.