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The #1 Way Most People Get Dementia

Learn the causes of dementia and how to help avoid the condition.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Dementia cases are on the rise, according to the World Health Organization which states, "Currently more than 55 million people live with dementia worldwide, and there are nearly 10 million new cases every year," mostly due to population growth and population aging. Currently there's no cure and while there's no surefire way to prevent the condition, lifestyle choices like not smoking, getting enough sleep, exercising 150 minutes a week and staying healthy helps lower the chance. Although there are nonmodifiable risk factors, knowing the causes of dementia is vital in helping avoid the disorder that severely affects cognitive functions. Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with Dr. Tomi Mitchell, a Board-Certified Family Physician with Holistic Wellness Strategies who shares common causes of dementia and what to know about the condition. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


What to Know About Dementia


Dr. Mitchell explains, "Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability due to disease or injury. Dementia affects memory, thinking, and judgment. A person with dementia may have trouble remembering familiar people, places, or things. They may also struggle with complex tasks, such as balancing a checkbook or cooking a meal. The symptoms of dementia can vary from mild to severe. In severe cases, a person with dementia may no longer be able to care for themselves. No one test can diagnose dementia. Instead, doctors must rule out other conditions that could cause similar symptoms.


Dementia is Not Part of Aging

doctor patient consult insomnia

Dr. Mitchell emphasizes, "Although dementia is most commonly diagnosed in older adults, it is not an inevitable consequence of aging. Dementia is caused by various factors, including disease, injury, and genetic abnormalities. More than 55 million people live with dementia worldwide, and nearly 10 million new cases yearly. While there is no cure for dementia, early diagnosis and treatment can often help slow the disease's progression and improve the quality of life for those affected. As our population ages, raising awareness about dementia and investing in research for better treatments and eventual cures is essential.

Age is the most significant risk factor for dementia, and the chances of developing the condition increase as we age. This is because, like many other conditions, our bodies experience life's general wear and tear as we age. The brain is no exception; the aging process can lead to brain structure and function changes contributing to dementia. However, it is essential to remember that age is not the only risk factor for dementia. Other factors such as family history, lifestyle choices, and health conditions can also play a role. As such, it is important to be aware of all the risks of dementia. While there is no definitive cause of dementia, several risk factors have been identified."



senior man consulting with doctor

Dr. Mitchell says, "As mentioned previously, age is a risk factor for developing dementia. The vast majority of people with dementia are 65 years of age or older."


Family History

Comforting Senior Husband Suffering With Dementia

"It is well known that having a family member with dementia puts a person at a higher risk of developing the condition," Dr. Mitchell shares. "However, it is essential to note that many people with a family history of dementia never develop symptoms. Conversely, many people without a family history of the condition do develop it. Tests are available to determine whether a person has specific genetic mutations associated with an increased risk of dementia. However, no test is perfect, and the results should be interpreted in the context of a person's personal medical history and family history. Ultimately, whether or not a person develops dementia is a complex interplay of genetic and environmental factors."


Medical Conditions

Woman comforting anxious husband

Dr. Mitchell tells us, "Though the exact cause of dementia is unknown, it is believed to be linked to various factors, including age, genetics, and lifestyle choices. Certain medical conditions can also increase the risk of developing dementia. For example, people who have had a stroke, heart disease, or Parkinson's disease are more likely to develop dementia than those who have not. This may be due to damage to the brain caused by these conditions. In addition, certain medications used to treat these conditions can also contribute to dementia. For example, beta-blockers and antipsychotics have been linked to an increased risk of dementia. As research continues to uncover new risk factors for dementia, it is hoped that treatments and preventive measures can be developed to help reduce the burden of this disease."


Exposure to Toxins

chemical plant near water

According to Dr. Mitchell, "People exposed to certain chemicals and metals, such as lead or mercury, may be at increased risk of developing dementia. The exact cause of dementia is not yet known, but it is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors. Exposure to certain toxins is one potential ecological risk factor for dementia. Lead and mercury are two examples of toxins linked to an increased risk of dementia. Lead exposure can occur through occupational exposure, lead-based paint, or contaminated drinking water. Mercury exposure can occur through fish consumption, dental fillings, or occupational exposure. If you have been exposed to these toxins, seeking medical advice and monitoring your cognitive function for any changes is essential."


Education Level


Dr. Mitchell states, "Research has found that people with less education are more likely to develop dementia. The study followed over six thousand people for twelve years and found that those with fewer years of schooling were more than twice as likely to develop dementia as those with more education. While the reasons for this link are not fully understood, it is clear that lifelong learning can positively impact cognitive health. In addition to reducing the risk of dementia, lifelong learning has been linked to improved mental sharpness, increased stress resilience, and a longer life span. Whether you learn a new language, take up a new hobby, or simply read a new book every month, committing to lifelong learning can have lasting benefits for your health and well-being."


Brain Injuries

elderly man alzheimer's dementia concept

Dr. Mitchell explains, "A brain injury is an injury that causes damage to the brain. A brain injury can be caused by a blow to the head, a penetrating head injury, or an object that hits the head. A brain injury can also be caused by a fall, a motor vehicle accident, or a sports injury. A brain injury can cause bleeding in the brain, bruising of the brain, or swelling of the brain. A brain injury can also cause damage to the blood vessels in the brain. A brain injury can lead to a loss of consciousness, memory loss, confusion, seizures, and coma. Severe head trauma can increase the risk of later developing dementia. Dementia is a progressive decline in cognitive function. Dementia affects memory, thinking, and judgment.

Early diagnosis and treatment of dementia are essential to improve quality of life and prevent further decline. While there is no sure way to prevent dementia, understanding the risk factors can help you make choices that may lower your chance of developing the condition. If you are concerned about your risks, speak to your doctor for more information."

Dr. Mitchell says this "doesn't constitute medical advice and by no means are these answers meant to be comprehensive. Rather, it's to encourage discussions about health choices."

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