Factors indicate the risk of dementia early on in life

Risk factors for Alzheimer’s seem to appear as early as adolescence. Can early identification of certain factors help to better protect people at risk?

New research suggests that various factors may indicate an increased risk of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia at a young age. The new findings were presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference® (AAIC®) 2020.

What factors indicate the risk of Alzheimer’s?

Risk factors that can be identified at an early stage and which can indicate Alzheimer’s in late age include, for example, factors related to heart health such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. Social factors also seem to play a role, such as the quality of education.

The researchers also found that older African American people are about twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia as older white people.

Memory can be protected at any age

By identifying changeable Alzheimer’s risk factors and researching how to address them, it would be possible to reduce new cases and ultimately the total number of people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

Lifestyle to protect cognitive function?

In their research, the researchers also wanted to find out whether lifestyle interventions that target many risk factors at the same time protect cognitive function in older adults who are at increased risk of cognitive decline.

What is related to bad cognition?

For example, among more than 714 African American participants, the researchers found that hypertension and diabetes are associated with poorer mental performance later in life. The same applies to a combination of several factors that are related to heart health and that already occur in adolescence.

The researchers concluded that diabetes, high blood pressure and two or more risk factors for cardiac health in adolescence, young adulthood or in the middle of life are associated with a statistically significantly poorer cognition in late life.

Healthy lifestyle should be promoted

Efforts to promote a healthy lifestyle for the heart and brain must include not only middle-aged adults, but also younger adults and adolescents, who can be particularly susceptible to the negative effects of poor vascular health on the brain, the researchers call for.

How does the BMI affect the risk of dementia?

A link was also found between a higher body mass index (BMI) in early adulthood (20-49 years) with a higher risk of dementia in late adulthood. Little is known about the role of the BMI in early adulthood in the risk of Alzheimer’s and other dementias. To determine the influence of the BMI on the risk of dementia, data from 5,104 older adults from two studies were evaluated, including 2,909 from the Cardiovascular Health Study (CHS) and 2,195 from the Health, Aging and Body Composition Study (Health ABC). Of this total sample, 18 percent were African Americans and 56 percent women.

Effects of an increased BMI on women

In women, the risk of dementia increased significantly with a higher BMI in early adulthood. Compared to women with normal BMI in early adulthood, the risk of dementia was 1.8 times higher in overweight women and even 2.5 times higher in obese women. However, the researchers found no connection between the BMI in the middle of life and the risk of dementia in women.

Effects of the BMI on men

In men, the risk of dementia was 2.5 times higher in obesity in early adulthood, 1.5 times higher in mid-life obesity, and 2 times higher than normal in mid-life obesity. In both women and men, the risk of dementia decreased with a higher BMI in later age.

Prevention has to start earlier

The researchers found that a high BMI in adulthood is a risk factor for dementia in late life. Efforts to reduce the risk of dementia may need to start earlier in life, with a focus on preventing and treating obesity, the team reports.

Does education protect against dementia?

In a diverse group of more than 2,400 people under medical surveillance up to the age of 21, higher quality early childhood education could be associated with better language and memory skills and a lower risk of late dementia. The results were slightly different between men and women and between black and white.

Education policy with a major impact on the risk of dementia

The study included 2,446 black and white men and women ages 65 and older who attended the Washington Heights / Inwood Columbia Aging Project and attended elementary school in the United States. People who attended school in states with lower levels of education experienced a faster decline in memory and languages ​​than older adults, the researchers report. Black women and men, as well as white women who attended schools in countries with a higher level of education, on the other hand, developed fewer dementia. These results suggest that dementia risk and cognitive function in later life are influenced by government education policies at an early age. (as)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Alzheimer’s Association International Conference: Alzheimer’s Risk Factors May Be Measurable in Adolescents and Young Adults (veröffentlicht 30.07.2020), AAIC 2020

Important NOTE:
This article contains general information only and should not be used for self-diagnosis or treatment. He can not substitute a visit at the doctor.