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26-07-2011 | General practice | Article

Nontraditional risk factors associated with AD and dementia


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MedWire News: Various nontraditional risk factors combined to predict the risk for Alzheimer's disease (AD) and dementia in a cohort of elderly Canadian patients, research shows.

"Our study suggests that rather than just paying attention to already known risk factors for dementia, such as diabetes or heart disease, keeping up with your general health may help reduce the risk for dementia," Kenneth Rockwood (Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada) and colleagues report in the journal Neurology.

Risk factors for late-life dementia, particularly AD, are known to be diverse, with previous studies linking frailty to cognitive decline.

Most individual risk factors, even traditional ones, are poor discriminators of risk in the general population. For this reason, there might be merit to using risk models that incorporate multiple risk factors, according to Rockwood and colleagues.

In this study of 7239 cognitively healthy individuals, the group developed a frailty index using 19 deficits not previously known to predict dementia.

Hearing, eyesight, and denture fit were assessed via questionnaire, as were potential stomach, bowel, and bladder problems, among others. The group questioned the patients about morning cough and skin, chest, and bone problems.

After 10 years of follow-up, the incidence of AD and dementia increased exponentially with the nontraditional risk factors index. Each additional health problem the participants had increased their odds of developing dementia by 3.2%.

"These associations were maintained even after adjusting for traditional risk factors and for age," write Rockwood and colleagues.

Among patients without these health deficits, the 10-year incidence of AD and dementia was 18%. This risk increased to 30% to 40% among individuals with eight and 12 health problems, respectively.

These new data, say researchers, suggest that the cumulative effects of "sometimes small and cognitively irrelevant insults" take a toll on general body health, and may set up conditions that give rise to dementia.

"In this way, these data also draw attention to the possibility that improving the overall health of the population might lessen the burden of late-life dementia," the researchers conclude.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

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