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These 3 Things Can Give You Dementia, Study Finds

Living in these neighborhoods may raise your risk of dementia.

People living in poorer neighborhoods might be at risk of their brains aging faster, a recent study has found. Researchers from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health analyzed health data from 601 people, average age 59, from another study. Sixty-nine percent had a family history of dementia. Participants had an MRI scan of their brains taken at the start of the study, then again every three to five years for a decade. They were also given memory and cognitive tests every two years.

When the study began, there was no difference in brain volume based on where the participants lived. By the end of the study, people who lived in poorer areas experienced more brain shrinkage and a faster decline in cognitive tests used to measure the risk of Alzheimer's disease. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss this urgent news: Sure Signs You Have "Long" COVID and May Not Even Know It.

What could cause this?

"Some possible causes of these brain changes may include air pollution, lack of access to healthy food and healthcare and stressful life events," said study author Amy J. H. Kind. "Further research into possible social and biological pathways may help physicians, researchers and policymakers identify effective avenues for prevention and intervention in Alzheimer's disease and related dementia."

"Our findings suggest that increased vigilance by healthcare providers for early signs of dementia may be particularly important in this vulnerable population," said Kind. 

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

How common is dementia?

The genesis of dementia—an umbrella term for several conditions that involve a decline in memory, judgment and the ability to communicate—is unclear. But the risk increases with age. About 14 percent of Americans over age 71 have some form of dementia, about 3.4 million people overall. 

"Worldwide, dementia is a major cause of illness and a devastating diagnosis," said Kind. "There are currently no treatments to cure the disease, so identifying possible modifiable risk factors is important. Compelling evidence exists that the social, economic, cultural and physical conditions in which humans live may affect health. We wanted to determine if these neighborhood conditions increase the risk for the neurodegeneration and cognitive decline associated with the earliest stages of Alzheimer's disease and dementia." And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor. Read more about Michael