Dementia risk factors

Patient on Larch wardHow common is dementia?

The total number of people with dementia worldwide in 2010 was estimated to be 35.6 million and this is projected to nearly double every 20 years (WHO 2012). There is one new case of dementia in the world every four seconds.

In the UK, there are approx 850,000 people living with dementia. The cost to the UK economy is currently £26 billion per annum and is increasing. 45% of this cost is in unpaid care. Dementia can affect a person of any age, but is more common in older people.

What are the risk factors?

Although it is not currently understood why people develop dementia, many factors have been suggested to be linked to the development of the condition, including:

  • age and a strong family history of dementia
  • excessive alcohol consumption
  • head injury.

Risk factors for heart disease such as high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking and being overweight also seem to increase the risk of getting dementia.

It seems that people who keep their brains active may be at less risk of developing dementia. Reading, engaging in a hobby such as playing bridge or chess, or doing crosswords and word puzzles may help to reduce the risk.