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Addressing lifestyle factors could reduce risk of young-onset dementia

A new study has identified a wide range of health and lifestyle factors associated with young-onset dementia risk

Lower formal education, lower socioeconomic status, genetic variation, and lifestyle factors could impact young-onset dementia risk, new study finds. (Pexels)

By Team Lounge

LAST PUBLISHED 27.12.2023  |  03:00 PM IST

As dementia is often thought of as a disease of old age, it often comes as a shock when people in their late teens or early 20s are diagnosed with it. Young-onset dementia, which refers to dementia diagnosis in people below the age of 64, can be particularly challenging. To help prevent it, a new study has identified a wide range of health and lifestyle factors associated with young-onset dementia risk.

The study, led by researchers from the University of Exeter and Maastricht University, found 15 risk factors linked to young-onset dementia which can be targeted to prevent the disease. For this study, the researchers collected data from 350,000 younger than 65 across the United Kingdom (UK) and the UK Biobank study, a press statement explained. They considered an array of factors including genetics, lifestyle and environmental influences.

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The findings, published in JAMA Neurology, revealed lower formal education, lower socioeconomic status, genetic variation, lifestyle factors such as alcohol use disorder and social isolation, and health issues including vitamin D deficiency, depression, stroke, hearing impairment and heart disease significantly increase the risk of young-onset dementia.

In the statement, study author David Llewellyn said this is the largest and most robust study of its kind. It’s also the first time that a study shows that it might be possible to take action to reduce dementia by targeting a range of different factors, he added.

These findings show that along with physical factors, mental health also plays an important role, including avoiding chronic stress, loneliness and depression, study author Sebastian Köhler said in the statement. 

Young-onset dementia can significantly impact the quality of life as people affected usually have a job, family, and a busy life. The cause is often assumed to be genetic, but for many people, it remains a mystery. This study sheds light on health and lifestyle factors that can be modified to keep dementia risk at bay.

Previous studies on people aged above 65 years have shown that lifestyle factors can impact dementia risk. For instance, a study published in JAMA in September showed that a sedentary lifestyle is associated with an increased risk for dementia among older adults.

These studies show that it might be possible to reduce the risk of this debilitating disease by focusing on health and lifestyle factors.

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