The content from this webpage is an amplification of Alzheimer’s Disease International recommendations.

World Alzheimer's Month 2023: Never too early, never too late

September is World Alzheimer’s Month and this year’s campaign by Alzheimer Disease International focuses on risk reduction for dementia1. Risk factors are characteristics that can increase the probability of developing the condition. Some are modifiable, like smoking or diet, while others, such as age or family history, are not.

Nutricia supports Alzheimer’s Disease International and works with healthcare professionals to provide nutritional solutions and resources to support individuals at risk of developing dementia.

What is dementia?

Dementia describes different brain disorders that affect memory, thinking, behavior and emotion, and is the leading cause of disability and dependency among the elderly. Early symptoms of dementia include memory loss, difficulty performing daily life tasks, problems with language and changes in personality. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, and there is currently no cure for it.

While there are estimated over 55 million people worldwide living with dementia, up to three quarters of people have not received a diagnosis. Partly because almost 62% of healthcare professionals worldwide incorrectly attribute first symptoms of dementia to normal aging2. For this reason, it is our responsibility as individuals to reduce our own risk of dementia by implementing meaningful changes in our daily life.

World Alzheimer's month poster

World Alzheimer’s Report 2023

This year’s World Alzheimer’s Report has been launched during the webinar that took place on World Alzheimer’s Day, 21 September 2023. The session included experts in the field reviewing the current risk reduction research, best practices, insights, and stories from people and authors internationally. Panelists included: Paola Barbarino (CEO of Alzheimer's Disease International), Simon Long (Editor-at-Large, The Economist - Lead Author of the World Alzheimer Report 2023), Emily Ong (Singapore-based dementia advocate - ADI Board Member - Co-chair of the Environmental Design Special Interest Group (EDSiG), Dementia Alliance International (DAI)) and Miia Kivipelto (Research Director, Karolinska Institutet - Managing Director, Theme Aging, Karolinska University Hospital) among others.

Never too early, never too late: 12 modifiable risk factors

According to The Lancet there is evidence for 12 modifiable risk factors that could prevent or delay 40% of cases of dementia, if we were able to act on all of them3. These risk factors have been reported by Alzheimer’s Disease International in their annual report and include changes like keeping an active lifestyle, eating well and engaging in social activities to promote good brain health and potentially help reduce the risk of developing dementia. Here is a list on some of the risk factors that you can act upon:

  • Physical activity: Staying physically active could help reduce your risk of developing dementia. It is recommended that adults aim for either 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity each week.
  • Smoking: It’s never too late to quit. Smoking greatly increases your risk of developing dementia. You’re also increasing your risk of other conditions, including type 2 diabetes, stroke, lung and other cancers.
  • Air pollution: Air pollution increases the risk of dementia, whereas clean air is good for the brain. Push for cleaner air for better brain health and healthy communities.
  • Head injuries: Protect your head, protect your brain. Take advice and recommended precautions when playing contact sports.
  • Social contact: Regular social interactions can help reduce the risk of dementia, including post diagnosis.
  • Obesity: Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and a balanced diet can reduce chances of obesity and of developing dementia in later life. Particularly in mid-life, obesity is associated with an increased risk of dementia.
  • Hypertension: Hypertension (high blood pressure) in mid-life increases a person’s risk of dementia, as well as causing other health problems. Keep your blood pressure in check and under control.
  • Diabetes: Managing Type 2 diabetes can reduce the risk of developing dementia.
  • Depression: Depression is associated with dementia incidence. Depression is part of the prodrome of dementia (a symptom that occurs before the symptoms that are used for diagnosis). It is not clear to what extent dementia may be caused by depression or the reverse, and both may be the case. Therefore, seek support and mental health advice and assistance if you suspect depression.
  • Hearing impairment: Hearing loss has been linked with heightened dementia risk – using hearing aids could make a real difference.
12 dementia risk factors
Risk 1 - Physical inactivity
Risk 2 - Smoking
Risk 3 - Excessive alcohol consumption
Risk 4 - Air pollution
Risk 5 - Head injury
Risk 6 - Infrequent social contact
Risk 7 - Less education
Risk 8 - Obesity
Risk 9 - Hypertension
Risk 10 - Diabetes
Risk 11 - Depression
Risk 12 - Hearing impairment

Source: Livingston et al. A, et al. Dementia prevention,
intervention, and care: 2020 report of the Lancet Commission

As mentioned in the report: what is good for the heart is good for the brain. And the best way to look after both is to pursue what has for decades been recognized as a “healthy lifestyle”, including eating a diet rich in fiber, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, beans, fish, and fruit, and avoiding too much meat and fat. Hence, it makes sense that obesity is one of the 12 modifiable risk factors for dementia acknowledged in the report since diet has a great impact on the development of this condition. Like any other organ, the brain needs specific nutrients to function properly. Therefore, if the diet is poor, this will have consequences for the brain and increase the risk of developing dementia.

Visit Alzheimer’s Disease International website to learn more about all the modifiable risk factors and discover practical strategies to potentially reduce your dementia risk.

World Alzheimer's month - Obesity risk factors

  1. Long, S, et al. World Alzheimer Report 2023: Reducing dementia risk: never too early, never too late. Alzheimer’s Disease International. 2023.
  2. Alzheimer’s Disease International. 2019. World Alzheimer Report 2019: Attitudes to dementia. Alzheimer’s Disease International.
  3. Livingston G, et al. Dementia prevention, intervention, and care: 2020 report of the Lancet Commission, The Lancet. 2020;396 (10248): 413–446.

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