AgingHuman InterestNeurologyPreventive Medicine


Alzheimer disease and related dementias (ADRD) are an important area of research for  scientists all over the world. Every month I come upon a scientific article (or two) sharing information either about the prevention or early detection of Alzheimer Dementia. The impact of dementia on families and relationships is so devastating that much time and money are devoted to its study.

JAMA Neurology had a very interesting, and practical, article about the risk factors associated with the development of Alzheimer disease-related dementia. These factors are important to know about, of course, but the good news is they are factors you can do something about, ie. they are modifiable.

In 2018, the U.S. Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System identified eight (8) “modifiable risk factors for ADRD.” These risk factors are:

     Physical Inactivity

     Current Smoking


     Low Education Level


     Midlife Obesity

     Midlife Hypertension

     Hearing Loss

One point of emphasis was that midlife obesity was the most important of the 8 factors. Physical inactivity, smoking, and depression also play a role, but among men, Blacks, Whites, Alaskan Natives, and American Indians, midlife obesity led the way. That covers a major percentage of the American populace. Asian individuals were affected most by physical inactivity while the low education level of Hispanics was their prime factor.

The good news is each of these risk factors is modifiable. With effort on the part of the individual, and guidance and encouragement from the physician, patients can do something about these factors. They can either be controlled or eliminated. We talk about dealing with these issues all the time because each of them is a risk factor for other diseases. Modifying them not only helps to prevent ADRD but also many other serious health problems. 

Dr. G’s Opinion: This is good news! Losing weight is very difficult, however. We all know how much time, effort and money people spend on jillions of diets and gimmicks to trim down. It takes a huge commitment, but it will benefit a patient in more ways than just dementia. Exercise, smoking cessation, blood pressure control, and tight control of diabetes (if present) are obvious health-improving measures, too. Depression is helped with medication, and hearing aids will improve hearing loss. A low education level is a controversial factor. How does one know it’s a factor? It seems like something included just to influence the numbers. Correcting it would require a motivated patient who has a strong family history of dementia. It is often said that exercising your mind helps to delay the onset of dementia. 

Modifying these factors is good advice for anyone. They certainly won’t make any condition worse and are wise health choices for many reasons beyond the prevention of dementia.

Reference: News from the JAMA Network. “Obesity is now the top Modifiable Dementia Risk in the U.S.” JAMA 2022 July 5;328(1):10.

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