More than 55 million people around the world currently suffer from dementia. Advanced age remains the main risk factor for developing dementia. Yet recent studies have uncovered several other potential risk factors for dementia and cognitive decline that you may not expect.
- Having poor oral hygiene. Finnish researchers recently found that gum disease and tooth loss could up your risk of cognitive decline and dementia. The study’s results, the authors say, suggest that for older adults who may already be experiencing some form of dementia, maintaining oral health may be particularly important.
- Watching too much TV. One recent study shows that the type of activity you are doing while sitting down for long periods of time may be connected to your risk of developing dementia. For example, watching TV while being sedentary involves less muscle activity than using a computer or reading during leisure time.
- Avoiding your household chores. Recent research from the U.K. also demonstrates a tie between even light physical activity and a lower risk of dementia. Staying active – including with such everyday activities as completing household chores, walking, or other engaging in other forms of light exercise – is associated with a reduced risk of dementia.
- Having frequent nightmares. New research findings suggest that experiencing distressing dreams once a week or more may be associated with an increased risk of dementia and cognitive decline in middle-aged and older adults.
Screening individuals for the frequency of their bad dreams could mean diagnosing cases of dementia earlier, say the researchers. Potentially, an earlier diagnosis that leads to more immediate intervention could mean slowing an individual’s cognitive decline.
- Going to bed early and staying in bed longer. A separate study of older adults in China offers evidence that going to bed early in addition to staying in bed longer could be linked to faster cognitive decline in older adults – particularly among men aged 60 to 74.
Older individuals who report going to bed early and staying in bed longer should be monitored for cognitive decline, the study’s authors suggest.
- Being diagnosed with a certain form of glaucoma. According to recent findings, individuals with normal-tension glaucoma are roughly 52 percent more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease, a type of dementia, than people without glaucoma. The researchers stress the need to screen patients with this type of glaucoma for Alzheimer’s disease.
If you are caring for an individual with dementia, consider contacting your local Alzheimer’s Association chapter.