The 12 Greatest Risk Factors for Dementia

The Lancet is one of the most respected medical journals in the world.  In 2017 they published 9 of the most important risk factors for the development of dementia.  In their most recent update in 2020 that have added 3 additional important risk factors.  The Lancet 12 modifiable risk factors account for about 40% of worldwide dementia that can be prevented or delayed. Below in their updated list:

  • Reduce diabetes
  • Reduce hypertension 
  • Avoid head injury
  • Stop (or don’t start) smoking
  • Decrease exposure to air pollution (including second-hand smoke)
  • Decrease midlife obesity
  • Treatment of hearing impairment (ie, use of hearing aids and avoidance of excessive noise levels)
  • Develop and maintain social contact
  • Attain higher levels of education
  • Engage in frequent exercise
  • Address depression
  • Avoid excessive levels of alcohol

The three new modifiable risk factors added in 2020 were excessive alcohol consumption, head injury, and air pollution. Below is a list of the recommendations in table form.

The majority of risk factors listed are either preventable with behavioral modifications or can be controlled with improved medical supervision or treatment.  The article notes that worldwide around 50 million people live with dementia, and this number is projected to increase to 152 million by 2050. The authors of the study recognize the limitations of their data since no interventional study to date that has enacted all 12 dementia prevention recommendations.

Knowledge is power when it comes to dementia prevention.  I have personally advocated for most of these interventions listed by The Lancet.  I would strongly recommend this update list for all my patients.