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The #1 Cause of Dementia if You're Over 60

Expert explains the leading cause of dementia and how to treat the condition.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Dementia is a condition that affects nearly 55 million people worldwide according to the World Health Organization and is more common in folks over 65. WHO states, "Dementia is a syndrome in which there is deterioration in cognitive function beyond what might be expected from the usual consequences of biological aging." While there's no cure yet, experts know a few common causes linked to dementia and ways to help treat the disorder. Eat This, Not That! Health talked with Dr. Michael Hirt, a Board Certified Nutrition from Harvard University and Board Certified in Internal Medicine and is with The Center for Integrative Medicine in Tarzana California who explained the leading cause of dementia and how to help naturally treat it. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


​​Alzheimer's Disease

Woman comforting anxious husband

According to Dr. Hirt, "Alzheimer's is the most feared cause of dementia for the 'over 60' crowd.  Most people think that getting this dreaded disease is an irreversible, genetic curse.  Thanks to advances in scientific research, doctors now know a lot about which patients are more likely to get Alzheimer's dementia, and more importantly, how to guide patients around this genetic landmine."


Get Tested

Cheerful mature doctor in face mask posing at camera, healthcare and medicine.

Dr. Hirt says. "Turns out, there is a simple blood test that can help predict whether you are genetically vulnerable to getting Alzheimer's.  This test is called the ApoE test which can be ordered by any licensed healthcare professional, and is performed by most major blood laboratories.  There are three genetic variants of the ApoE (numbered 2,3 and 4), and you get one variant from each parent.  The ApoE 4 gene variant predicts an increased risk of Alzheimer's, and if each parent gives you an ApoE 4 gene, then you would have the highest risk of potentially developing dementia, about 8-12 times the average risk of dementia."

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Change Your Diet and Don't Panic

Elderly man eating hamburger in living room with smiling face

"If you have the ApoE 4 genotype, there are immediate steps you can take to side-step the activation of this gene," Dr. Hirt explains. "First is your diet.  Sugar, fat (both good and bad fats), and alcohol can activate this gene.  The best diet for patients with the ApoE 4 gene is a Pritikin-like diet that is ultra low in fat, about 10-15% of your total calories, low in processed sugar (like cookies, cakes and ice cream), and alcoholic beverages.  You ask: 'I thought healthy fats and red wine were good for you and help French people live to 100?'  Well, healthy fats (like nuts, seeds and olive oil) and modest alcohol consumption may be good for some people, but not everybody…and certainly not those with the ApoE 4 genotype."   

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Take Natural Supplements

soluable fiber supplements

Dr. Hirt states, "Second are your natural supplements.  Strong anti oxidants like curcumin, grape seed extract, and coenzyme Q10 may be helpful in protecting your brain from the consequences of ApoE 4 activation.  Even patients who are starting to experience early signs of dementia, may benefit from incorporating these dietary supplements into their daily regimen if their healthcare professional agrees based on their medications and other health concerns."

RELATED: The #1 Cause of Diabetes, According to Science


​​Other Causes of Dementia

Mature woman sitting upset at home.

Stanford Health Care states, "Dementia is caused by damage to or changes in the brain.

Common causes of dementia are:

  • Alzheimer's disease. This is the most common cause of dementia.
  • Vascular dementia. This may occur in people who have long-term high blood pressure, severe hardening of the arteries, or several small strokes. Strokes are the second most common cause of dementia.
  • Parkinson's disease. Dementia is common in people with this condition.
  • Dementia with Lewy bodies. It can cause short-term memory loss.
  • Frontotemporal dementia. This is a group of diseases that includes Pick's disease.
  • Severe head injury.
  • Less common causes of dementia include:
  • Huntington's disease.
  • Leukoencephalopathies. These are diseases that affect the deeper, white-matter brain tissue.
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. This is a rare and fatal condition that destroys brain tissue.
  • Some cases of multiple sclerosis (MS) or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
  • Multiple-system atrophy. This is a group of degenerative brain diseases that affect speech, movement, and autonomic function.
  • Infections such as late-stage syphilis. Antibiotics work well to treat syphilis at any stage, but they can't reverse the brain damage already done.
  • Inherited dementia
  • Some disorders that cause dementia can run in families. Doctors often suspect an inherited cause if someone younger than 50 has symptoms of dementia." 
  • And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.
Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather