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Dementia Is an Epidemic of the 21st Century


Nearly two-thirds of dementia sufferers are women, according to the Data Association for the Study of Alzheimer's Disease (USA). Men are less likely to develop the disease. Moreover, women suffer from dementia in more severe forms than the opposite sex-they lose memory and cognitive abilities faster. Why this is so, is not known yet.

Moreover, the dependence persisted even after taking into account all possible amendments-for example, the influence of excess weight and the presence of a history of strokes (both factors increase the risk of dementia).

The influence of childhood on the likelihood of dementia continues to be studied, but it may indeed be part of the answer to why the number of people with dementia has risen in the recent decades.

Thus, just thirty years ago, the average number of children per woman in the world was more than three. Today this shows below 2.5 and continues to fall rapidly. This is especially pronounced in developed countries, for example, in South Korea, it fell below one.

At the same time, there are no relevant studies and statistics on childless women. This may be due to the fact that the likelihood of dementia increases with age, and childless women have shorter life expectancy than those who give birth.

Three New Avoidable Risk Factors

For years, the scientific community has been trying to figure out what exactly increases the chances of dementia, and by how much. Until now, only nine removable factors of this kind were known (about them below), and new review paper in the Lancet draws attention to three new, previously unknown manageable risk factors. Let's start with them.

1.The first and most controversial of these new factors is alcohol consumption. According to data collected in France on a sample of tens of thousands of people, those with markedly excessive alcohol consumption increased their risk of dementia by 3.36 times for men and 3.34 times for women.


It should be noted that here we are talking about those hospitalized in connection with other diseases caused by the use of alcohol (cirrhosis and the like), that is, people who drink very heavily.

2. The second emerging risk factor is serious head injury (eg, concussion) in old age. The significance of injuries of this kind was also revealed by the Lancet article by Canadian scientists. Among older Canadians who had trauma, on average, one in six cases developed dementia after four years


If it is not possible to save oneself, then, as Canadian researchers note, it is worth taking statins. These drugs seem to reduce the severity of inflammatory reactions in the brain after injury.

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3.A third new factor that increases the likelihood of dementia is air pollution. As shown ina study conducted in Sweden, a quarter of the population that lived in areas with the highest wood burning, or those who rely on using wood for cooking, had a 74% higher risk of dementia than the average for their region.


However, toxic gases produced by vehicles also play the same role as the burning wood. People living in densely populated areas, inhaling more such gases, are at higher risk of dementia.

Risk Factors Are Manageable

It must be admitted that the Lancet authors call this risk factor “manageable” not from the point of view of an individual citizen, but from the position of medical authorities.

What can we do ourselves to change the situation? Drivers should often drive with the air conditioning on. As shown in scientific work by another group of researchers (from the USA), by cooling the air, even with an open air circuit, it sharply reduces the concentration of microparticles polluting it. The effect is quite significant-reduction in pollution is 20–34% (depending on outdoor air pollution).

Previously Known: Nine Risks of Dementia

The Lancet review also looks at previously known risk factors and provides data on how much each of them increases the likelihood of developing dementia.

  • One of the most important factors is the lack of education. This factor especially affects the development of early dementia, the risk of which for people without higher and completed secondary education is 60% higher. However, the question of why mental activity reduces the chances of dementia has also not been fully explored.
  • Hearing disorders: Hearing-impaired people between the ages of 45 and 65 are 90% more likely to develop dementia than others. The scientific world is also unaware of this connection, but the Lancet authors recommend that people at risk use hearing aids.
  • Hypertension and obesity increase the risk of dementia by 60%. The recommendations here are also simple-monitor blood pressure and not let it go beyond 130. In case of obesity, strive to lose weight.
  • After 65 years, the main "accelerators" of dementia are depression, smoking and social isolation. Again, these factors do not add up directly.
  • Diabetes raises the risk of the "disease of the century" by 50%. And the lack of physical activity, less than 30 minutes of active movement, physical work or exercise per day,by 40%.

Cumulative effect

So, the risk of developing dementia is higher for city dwellers than for rural dwellers (if they do not have to regularly contact with burning wood), more significant for those who left school after nine grades, smoke, abuse alcohol, are prone to depression, are overweight and do not show physical and social activity.

But this is not a typical conclusion of the level “it is better to be rich and healthy than poor and sick”. Keeping track of our habits, the state of the body and mind is still quite within the power of the average person.

Of course, the exclusion of all twelve managed risk factors does not guarantee 100% immunity from the disease, but this reduces the likelihood. The Lancet authors, having examined all the above risk factors, came to the conclusion that persons who exclude all the risks at once receive such a diagnosis by 39.7 % less than their peers.

This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2022 Hamza Hussaini

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