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Doctors presented with new list of dementia risk factors

Wednesday 12th October 2016
A new list of environmental risk factors for dementia has been drawn up. Image: photka via iStock
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UK doctors have been presented with a new list of environmental risk factors for dementia that could help them to advise patients on how making lifestyle changes could lower their risk of developing the degenerative illness.

Scientists based at the University of Edinburgh's Alzheimer Scotland Dementia Research Centre found that a lack of vitamin D and overexposure to air pollution are both factors that can increase a person's risk of dementia.

As a result, they have been added to an extensive list of other potential lifestyle-related risk factors for the condition, which include high blood pressure, smoking, depression, diabetes and obesity. However, many of these risks can be reduced through a healthy diet or by giving up bad habits.

Although genetics are behind some people's development of dementia, the new research highlights that there are many ways doctors can advise patients to take action to lower their risk of the disease. For example, this can be done by incorporating more vitamin D in their diets by eating more fatty fish such as mackerel or tuna, and consuming additional eggs and cheese.

Study author Dr Tom Russ commented: "Our ultimate goal is to prevent or delay the onset of dementia. Environmental risk factors are an important new area to consider here, particularly since we might be able to do something about them.

"We found that the evidence is particularly strong for air pollution and vitamin D deficiency. But we really need more research to find out whether these factors are actually causing dementia and how, and if so, what we can do to prevent this."

It is believed that dementia care currently costs the UK over £26 billion per year, with the global cost of the disease per annum coming in above the market value of Google and Apple.

With this in mind, this new study should help to improve understanding of the disease for the public and healthcare professionals alike, providing doctors with new factors that they can advise patients on in a bid to lower their dementia risk.

Written by James Puckle

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