Dementia is not a specific disease but instead a syndrome (group of related symptoms) associated with an ongoing decline in cognitive abilities, notably affecting memory but also speech and other behaviours
Experts have revealed the 11 key signs you’re at risk of dementia and what you can do to tackle them and reduce the risk of developing it.
Dementia is not a specific disease but instead a syndrome (group of related symptoms) associated with an ongoing decline in cognitive abilities, notably affecting memory but also speech and other behaviours. Around 1 in 11 people over the age of 65 have dementia in the UK, according to the NHS.
New health research shows there are more than 944,000 people in the UK living with dementia, a number that is estimated to increase to more than 1 million by 2030. Rather than a natural part of ageing, there are many risk factors that can increase a person’s likelihood of developing dementia.
A study recently published in the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology found that those with irregular bedtimes had a 53% higher dementia risk than those with strict schedules, after adjusting for age, sex and genetic risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Scientists tracked 88, 094 middle-aged people’s sleep with wrist-worn trackers for an average of seven years, who were given a score of 100 based on how closely their sleep and wake times matched each day. Medical records showed that the lowest scoring group – those with the most variation in their sleep cycle – were significantly more likely to develop dementia than those with an average score.
Professor Matthew Paul Pase, from Monash University in Australia, said: “Our findings suggest the regularity of a person’s sleep is an important factor in their risk of dementia. Sleep health recommendations often focus on getting the right amount of sleep, which is seven to nine hours a night, but there is less emphasis on maintaining regular sleep schedules.”
He added: “People with irregular sleep may only need to improve their sleep regularity to average levels, compared to very high levels, to prevent dementia.”
Other risk factors for dementia
Genes – most dementias are not hereditary but in some rare cases, dementia is directly caused by a single-gene disease. Of the four most common types of dementia, frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is most likely caused by a single-gene change.
High blood pressure (hypertension) – people who have consistent high blood pressure in middle age are more likely to develop dementia compared to those with normal blood pressure because of the effect high blood pressure has on the heart, arteries, and blood circulation
Social isolation – social isolation can increase the risk of hypertension, coronary heart disease, depression and dementia, so staying socially active may reduce the work or at least slow down the progression of the disease
Traumatic brain injury – brain injuries may trigger a process that might eventually lead to dementia, which particularly affects athletes in boxing, football, hockey and rugby, who often endure repeated brain injuries
Sarah Carter is a health and wellness expert residing in the UK. With a background in healthcare, she offers evidence-based advice on fitness, nutrition, and mental well-being, promoting healthier living for readers.