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This One Thing Could Predict Dementia, Says New Study

Researchers found an “association between dementia and self-reported pain.”
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek
Woman having headache migraine. Stress and depression.

You can't predict if you'll get dementia but there are predictive factors—and researchers believe they have discovered a new one. "People with dementia may experience increased levels of pain 16 years before their diagnosis, according to new research," reports the National Institute on Aging today. "The study, funded in part by NIA and published in Pain, is the first to examine the link between pain and dementia over an extended period." Read on to see what pain they mean—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You Had COVID and Didn't Know It.

Pain is a Correlate or Symptom of Dementia, Study Finds

"Dementia and chronic pain both cause changes to the brain and can affect a person's brain health," says the NIA. "Although many people who have dementia also have chronic pain, it is unclear whether chronic pain causes or accelerates the onset of dementia, is a symptom of dementia, or is simply associated with dementia because both are caused by some other factor. The new study, led by researchers at Université de Paris, examined the timeline of the association between dementia and self-reported pain by analyzing data from a study that has been gathering data on participants for as many as 27 years."

The researchers measured pain a few different ways: pain intensity, which is how much bodily pain a participant experiences, and pain interference, which is how much a participant's pain affects his or her daily activities. 

Some "associations were evident for a mean follow-up of 6.2 years." "These associations were stronger when the mean follow-up for incidence of dementia was 3.2 years," say authors. "In conclusion, these findings suggest that pain is a correlate or prodromal symptom rather than a cause of dementia."

RELATED: 5 Ways to Prevent Dementia, Says Dr. Sanjay Gupta

There is Also a Heart-Brain Connection

This is not the first time a connection has been found between health issues and dementia. "Several conditions known to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease — such as high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol — also increase the risk of developing Alzheimer's," reports the Alzheimer's Association. "Some autopsy studies show that as many as 80% of individuals with Alzheimer's disease also have cardiovascular disease….Regular physical exercise may be a beneficial strategy to lower the risk of Alzheimer's and vascular dementia. Exercise may directly benefit brain cells by increasing blood and oxygen flow in the brain. Because of its known cardiovascular benefits, a medically approved exercise program is a valuable part of any overall wellness plan." So remember that, and to protect your health, don't miss these Signs You're Getting One of the "Most Deadly" Cancers.