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Most People are Getting Dementia This Way, Experts Say

Five ways people are getting dementia.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Around 55 million people worldwide are living with dementia and The World Health Organization estimates, "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." Although dementia—a syndrome that causes a deterioration in cognitive function, mainly affects the older community, people as young as 30 have been diagnosed with early onset dementia.Chaye McIntosh, Clinical Director at ChoicePoint tells Eat This, Not That! Health, "The earliest signs of dementia are very subtle and vary from person to person. The warning signs are loss of memory, feeling disoriented, difficulty performing everyday tasks and trouble speaking." Much still needs to be learned about dementia, but so far experts know the main causes and Dr. Paul Poulakos, MD, board-certified Psychiatrist explains to ETNT Health the five common ways people get the disorder. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.



Portrait of sad mature woman sitting on couch at home and looking away with worry and anxiety.

Dr. Poulakos states, "As a person ages, their risk of developing dementia increases exponentially. The risk doubles every five years after age 65. There are age-related brain changes that we are learning more about that play a role in dementia. These changes may include neuronal damage and other cell damage. Changes seen with aging include atrophy (shrinking) of certain parts of the brain, inflammation, and the development of damaging free radicals."



Senior couple cooking healthy food and drinking red wine at house kitchen.

According to Dr. Poulakos, "A family history of dementia increases one's risk 2-3 times. This is because there is a genetic component to the disease. For example, early-onset Alzheimer disease (a type of dementia) is associated with a particular genetic mutation that is inherited and passed down from one's parents. Individuals with Down Syndrome have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer disease and the onset is typically earlier than is seen in others who develop the condition."  


Low Education Level

Happy woman portrait on her graduation day smiling

"Lower education levels have been associated with an increased risk of dementia," says Dr. Poulakos. "Our understanding is that lower education levels correlate with less "cognitive reserve." Maintaining engagement in cognitively stimulating activities in older age may increase one's "cognitive reserve" and delay the development of dementia."

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Traumatic Brain Injury

Elderly woman wearing oxygen mask sleeping in hospital bed

Dr. Poulakos explains, "Repeated head trauma including concussions that are seen in football players, boxers, and soldiers increase the risk of developing dementia. This may be due to a combination of cell damage and inflammation that occurs following the trauma."

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Dr. Poulakos states, "Certain infections are associated with an increased risk of dementia. For example, HIV infection can infiltrate the brain, causing direct infection of the brain and central nervous system."

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How to Help Prevent Dementia

Group seniors with dementia builds a tower in the nursing home from colorful building blocks

Lifestyle choices can also increase the risk of getting dementia like smoking, poor diet, lack of exercise and social isolation, according to experts. A spokesperson for Trinity Homecare tells us, "What's good for your heart is ultimately good for your brain," and offered the following tips for helping prevent dementia:

  •       "Eating a healthy, balanced diet and maintaining a healthy weight can help avoid getting dementia. 
  •       Regular exercise (reduce risk of heart disease and becoming overweight which are both linked to dementia) -> try to sit less, get up and move!
  •       Keep to recommended alcohol limits (high alcohol consumption is known to be linked to strokes, heart disease, damaging nervous system, again all linked to dementia)
  •       Stopping smoking (proven to cause your arteries to become narrower/increase blood pressure, this again is linked to dementia)
  •       Maintaining healthy blood pressure
  •       Depression (this is more complex however there are proven links between untreated depression and risk of developing dementia: loneliness/social isolation has also been closely linked to 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