(ORDO NEWS) — An Australian study found that where you live may have a strong relationship with your risk of developing dementia later in life.
The study was based on health data from 4,656 people from various states and regions between 2016 and 2020 as part of a larger study called the Healthy Brain Project. The volunteers ranged in age from 40 to 70 years old, and none of them were formally diagnosed with dementia.
Analyzing their results, the authors found that those who lived in more affluent areas scored significantly higher on memory tests and lower on dementia risk tests than those who lived in disadvantaged areas.
The differences were especially large among the elderly and people with higher rates of dementia.
“Together, these findings suggest that people in more disadvantaged areas tend to have higher rates of dementia risk and subtle differences in memory, even in middle age,” the authors conclude.
The results are supported by recent studies in the US, which also found a higher incidence of Alzheimer’s disease among disadvantaged areas.
Interestingly, other studies in the United Kingdom have found a higher risk of dementia only among people of lower personal socioeconomic status, and not among neighbors.
Further research is needed to separate the various psychological, social, and environmental factors that may influence these results. Thus, public health experts can try to solve the problem with the greatest efficiency.
For example, chronic exposure to air pollution in China and Mexico City has recently been associated with cognitive decline, even in young adults. Air pollution also tends to worsen in disadvantaged areas, causing memory problems in lower socioeconomic groups as a consequence.
Diet is another factor that can have some influence. The Mediterranean diet, for example, shows potential cognitive benefits with age, but healthy foods like vegetables, berries, nuts, olive oil, and fish tend to be more expensive, and adherence to this diet is usually associated with higher socioeconomic status.
Access to green spaces, which also tend to be few and far between in disadvantaged areas, may be another factor influencing the cognitive health of older adults. The same goes for access to health and educational facilities such as schools and libraries.
Researchers suggest that up to 40 percent of dementia cases are preventable, so if experts can figure out which risk factors can mitigate cognitive decline, we could potentially protect a large portion of the aging population from this common group of conditions.
“Because a healthy lifestyle is a key factor in reducing or delaying the risk of developing dementia, it is important that everyone has access to local facilities such as gyms and community pools, green spaces and healthcare, but unfortunately this is not always the case.” says neurologist Matthew Paise from Monash University in London.
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