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This Common Habit Makes Your Dementia Risk Soar

Doctor reveals why some people have a great chance of getting dementia. 
FACT CHECKED BY Alek Korab

Dementia is a syndrome that leads to the deterioration of cognitive functions such as memory, the ability to think and learning capabilities. According to the World Health Organization: "Worldwide, around 55 million people have dementia, with over 60% living in low- and middle-income countries. As the proportion of older people in the population is increasing in nearly every country, this number is expected to rise to 78 million in 2030 and 139 million in 2050." While experts are still learning about dementia, doctors do know why some people are at a greater risk than others for getting the disorder. Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with  Dr. Santoshi Billakota, MD, an Adult Neurologist Epileptologist and Clinical Assistant Professor within the Department of Neurology at NYU Grossman School of Medicine who revealed behaviors that increase the risk. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.

1

Not Getting Enough Sleep

Woman awakened lying in bed with her eyes open.
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According to Dr. Billakota, "Sleep is the prime time for your brain to reset and consolidate information and memory. Without adequate sleep, the brain cannot store memory adequately. Lack of sleep can also lead to confusion and irritability, which can make learning new tasks/things or remembering tasks difficult. Short-term memory can be affected and over time, long term memory."

2

Lack of Exercise

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Dr. Billakota says, "not getting enough exercise," can heighten your risk of getting dementia. "Cardiovascular exercise (swimming, walking, jogging) for at least 30 minutes a day can increase blood flow to the brain. This can lead to better brain health and also help protect the brain. Those who do not exercise or lead a very sedentary lifestyle, can be at risk of dementia due to this."

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3

Smoking or Alcohol

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Dr. Billakota explains, "There is a higher correlation with people who smoke tobacco and use alcohol regularly than those who do not. The reasoning is that both habits contribute to atherosclerotic disease of the small blood vessels which feed the brain. Consequently, this can reduce blood flow to the brain and contribute to dementia."

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4

How Close Are Experts to Finding a Cure for Dementia?

physician medicine doctor or pharmacist sitting at worktable, holding jar of pills in hands and writing prescription on special form.
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Dr. Billakota says, "There is currently no cure for dementia as it is almost impossible to reverse the process. As we cannot grow new brain cells, once dementia has been identified the best mode of action is to start the patient on medications to slow the process down. In addition to that, healthy eating, drinking and sleeping (lifestyle changes) can help protect brain health."

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5

When is it Time to Seek Medical Treatment?

older man with dementia talking to doctor
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"It is time to seek help when you notice you or a loved one has a precipitous decline in both short and long term memory, changes in personality or mood," Dr. Billakota states. "For example, if someone has trouble with daily tasks (driving, getting lost in familiar neighborhoods, balancing a checkbook, cooking, grocery shopping etc.) In addition, someone with dementia can have new psychotic, obsessive or paranoid behaviors, which can be very concerning. If you notice anything such as this, please seek help immediately!" And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss 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