Latest news and research outcomes

How Aware are we of how to Reduce our Risk of Dementia?

Wednesday, September 13th, 2023

Up to 40% of dementias worldwide are due to modifiable risk factors, meaning aspects of our lifestyle that we can change[1]. Research has identified twelve key factors.  How many can you name? Have a go! In a study published earlier this year, this is exactly what a research team in Ireland set out to explore[2]. How much have we heard of or know about the main risk factors of dementia?

Online survey of brain health awareness

The team recruited 551 volunteers (half male/half female), aged 50 years and above, without a dementia diagnosis, and who had never worked in healthcare. Alongside a bunch of demographic details, participants were surveyed online about their exposure to, and knowledge of, poor diet, low social interaction, low exercise, hypertension, poor sleep quality, low mood/depression, smoking, alcohol consumption, low mental stimulation, hearing impairment, diabetes, living in an area with high air pollution and head injury, as risk factors for dementia. Participants were also asked about their own current experience with these risk factors, plus whether they believed dementia could be prevented, or indeed, the risk of developing the condition reduced.

Most aware of head knocks, alcohol and low mental stimulation as dementia risk factors

Relative to females, male reported living significantly more risk factors. Across genders, two thirds of participants believed that lifestyle improvements can decrease the risk of developing dementia. One third of participants believed dementia could be prevented. Head injury, low mental stimulation and alcohol consumption were the three most recognised modifiable risk factors. Only one third of participants recognised hearing impairment as a risk factor. Participants who had gone to university were the most aware about dementia risk factors.

Less Educated as a Potential Target Population

The main limitation of the study that the sample was highly educated compared to the general population, so the findings may not apply to everyone. Furthermore, the online method precluded people who may not be technologically literate. Nonetheless, the study highlights that dementia risk factors vary in how well-known they are; and by whom, depending on education status. This is helpful for future awareness campaigns. The study helps to identify which lifestyle changes to improve awareness of, and which population to target, particularly if lower education status is a risk factor in itself.