Why Dementia risk isn’t all in the genes

“It is never too early and never too late in the life course for dementia prevention” *

Why Dementia risk isn’t all in the genes 

“My Granny had Dementia so therefore it’s more likely for me to get it too” is something I’ve heard so many people tell me over my years in practice. Now we know genetics have a much less significant role than we thought. 

Latest evidence tells us being diagnosed with dementia is far from inevitable. In fact up to 40% of diagnoses could be prevented according to a recent study*

Why Lifestyle Matters for your risk of Dementia

A landmark paper published in Medical Journal The Lancet this week confirmed again the importance of lifestyle factors in the ability to prevent dementia.* The paper discusses the importance of factors such as managing blood pressure, reducing exposure to pollution, limiting alcohol intake to within recommended limits, stopping smoking, physical activity and managing weight 

So does Family History matter?

There is a couple of things to bear in mind- dementia is an umbrella term for a number of different conditions- but the most common thing people think of when they hear dementia is Alzheimer’s Dementia. For good reason as this is the most commonly form of dementia diagnosed world wide.

A small percentage of people inherit a gene from their parents (known as the ApoE4 gene) which DOES increase your risk of getting dementia significantly.

However the majority of people whose parents are diagnosed with dementia of the Alzheimers form will not be diagnosed with it themselves purely based on genetics.

Small changes matter for Brain Health 

The evidence is there and growing that what we do in early and mid life can affects our chances of being diagnosed with dementia in later years. We can reduce our risks considerably by making some small changes

What are they?

  1. Being active
  2. Nutrition
  3. Connections
  4. Having a purpose
  5. Managing stress
  6. Prioritising sleep
  7. Gut Health

These small changes to our lifestyle can make a difference to both how we feel and the risk of developing diseases that affect our brains as we get older. We want to help people understand how these small changes can make a difference to our Noggins and to the Noggins of the one we care about. 

There will be more to come as research is ongoing in this area all this time but don’t assume that granny’s future is your future.

Keep well 

Dr Clara Russell 

* Dementia Prevention, intervention and care: 2020 report of the Lancet Commission. https://doi.org/10.1016/ S0140-6736(20)30367-6

https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/about-dementia/risk-factors-and-prevention/genetics-of-dementia

https://www.nia.nih.gov/news/healthy-lifestyle-associated-lower-risk-dementia-independent-genetic-risk-study-finds

https://www.sleepfoundation.org/excessive-sleepiness/performance/improve-your-memory-good-nights-sleep

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4564234/