Only 2 per cent of us know the lifestyle risk factors for dementia

Do you know what lifestyle choices can increase your risk of getting dementia? If you don’t know any, you’re not alone. 

Researchers by the UK’s peak health body Public Health England (PHE) recently found only two per cent of people could name all six of the health and lifestyle factors – heavy drinking, smoking, high blood pressure, depression, diabetes and not getting enough exercise.

While the survey found many people had “a good knowledge of the symptoms of dementia” such asdifficulty in recognising people, feeling lost in new places, slower thinking and losing track of time, over 25 per cent of the respondents didn’t know any of the risk factors.

But with more evidence pointing to up to one-third of dementia cases actually being preventable by avoiding these risks, it’s a worrying result.

The worst results in the 2015 British Social Attitudes survey were for high blood pressure and diabetes. Just 15 per cent of the 2,176 people surveys knew high blood pressure increases the chances of getting dementia and only 14 per cent knew diabetes does the same.

Dementia not part of getting older

Alarmingly, 33 per cent of those people aged 65 and over also wrongly believed that there was nothing anyone can do to reduce their risks of getting dementia. That’s compared to 26 per cent of those under 65.

Not only can you do something about lowering the risks, studies show that only a quarter of men and a third of women of 85 actually develop dementia. While it does become more common as we grow older, there is not guarantee that it will happen to you.

“Dementia is not an inevitable part of ageing,” Dr Charles Alessi, Senior Dementia Advisor at PHE, said. “What’s good for the heart is good for the brain and simple steps like giving up smoking, reducing alcohol intake, losing weight and taking regular exercise can reduce your risk of developing dementia in the future.”

“In the absence of a cure for dementia, prevention is the best means we have to reduce its impact on the public,” he added.

There are already 350,000 people living with dementia in Australia – in aged care, the number is over 50 per cent. So what can you do to prevent dementia? Start by learning more about the risks and how you can cut them now.

Find out more about reducing your risk of dementia at the Your Brain Matters site here.

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A special thanks to our contributors

Jill Donaldson


Jill has been practicing as a clinical physiotherapist for 30 years. For the last 13 years she has worked solely in the Aged Care sector in more than 50 metropolitan and regional facilities. Jill has also toured care facilities in the US and Africa and is a passionate advocate for both the residents in aged care and the staff who care for them. She researches and writes for DCM Media.

Chris Baynes

DCM Media, agedcare101

Chris has been a journalist and publisher in the retirement village and aged care sectors for 11 years. He has visited over 250 retirement villages and 50 aged care facilities both within Australia and internationally. Chris is a regular speaker at industry conferences plus is a frequent radio commentator.

Annie Donaldson

Nurse and Carer

Annie has a long career in both nursing and the media. She has planned and co-ordinated the medical support from both international TV productions and major stadium events. In recent years she has been a primary family carer plus involved in structured carer support.