- According to the Alzheimer’s Association, certain risk factors such as diabetes, weight or cardiovascular health from adolescence influence the risk of developing neurodegenerative disease at the end of life.
- Social factors, such as education, must also be taken into consideration in the development of dementia.
- Senior African Americans are about twice as likely to have Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias as older whites.
Predicting the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease in adolescents and young adults, even before the onset of the first symptoms: many research studies have been working on this for years by studying family history or even by taking into account risk factors.
It is in this perspective that a new study presented at the international conference of the Alzheimer’s Association fits. According to its authors, diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, overweight, arterial hypertension or a combination of several factors, are frequent in adolescence and are associated with a deterioration of cognitive functions at the end of life, in particular with of the African American population. The latter is indeed twice as likely to be suffering from dementia as whites of the same age.
Heart health influences cognitive health
A cognitive assessment was carried out on adolescents (12-20 years), young adults (21-34 years) and adults (35-56 years). By having them perform memory and executive function tests, the researchers found that, in the study population, having diabetes, high blood pressure or two or more risk factors for heart health at adolescence, early adulthood, or mid-life was associated with statistically significant deterioration in cognition at the end of life. These differences even persisted after taking into account other factors such as age or education.
The study also highlighted the higher risk of African Americans of developing cardiovascular disease compared to other ethnic groups from adolescence to adulthood. However, according to researchers, cardiovascular disease is a risk factor that, starting in adolescence, influences brain health in old age in African Americans.
Overweight and education as risk factors
Other risk factors for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s have been identified. This is the case with a high BMI in young adults, which is associated with a greater risk of dementia at the end of life.
In women, the risk of dementia increases with a higher BMI in early adulthood. Compared with women with a normal BMI in early adulthood, the risk of dementia was 1.8 times higher in those who were overweight and 2.5 times higher in those who were obese. The risk of dementia is similar in adult men with obesity (2.5 times higher) and overweight (1.5 times).
Researchers have found that a high BMI in adulthood is a risk factor for dementia in later life. Researchers suggest that efforts to reduce the risk of dementia should start earlier in life, with a focus on preventing and treating obesity.
Last data highlighted by the study: that according to which the quality of education at the beginning of life influences the risk of dementia. Following up to 21 years of age 2,446 black and white men and women aged 65 and over who attended elementary school in the United States, researchers found that better early education was associated with higher quality. better performance in terms of language and memory, and a lower risk of dementia at the end of life.
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