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Middle Age Lifestyle Affects Dementia Risk

Currently, one in six Americans over the age of 70 has dementia. By 2050, experts predict that number will increase threefold.

Determining the main causes of dementia is one way to battle this drastic increase and researchers from the University of Minnesota may have uncovered some important clues.

The researchers found that people who smoke, have high blood pressure or diabetes in middle age have a significantly increased risk of developing dementia. Their findings were published in the November 2009 issue of the Journal of Neurology.

The study included 11,000 men and women who were between 46 and 70 years of age at the beginning of the study in 1990-1992.

At the start of the study, the researchers performed physical exams and memory tests to assess each participant's health. During a follow-up period lasting until December 2004, 203 of the participants were hospitalized for dementia.

The researchers found that people who smoked in middle age were 70% more likely to develop dementia and those with high blood pressure had a 60% higher risk of developing dementia. They also found that people with diabetes in middle age were twice as likely to develop dementia later in life.

This study supports a growing body of evidence showing that reducing risk factors of dementia in middle age may lower dementia risk. The researchers note, however,that further study is needed to verify that control of such factors actually will lower risk.

Research has also shown that staying mentally fit is just as important as staying physically fit when it comes to reducing the risk of dementia. Solving crossword puzzles, playing cards, going to the movies or theater and partaking in artistic activities are all easy and fun ways to keep your mind active as you age, and they may help you lower your risk of dementia.

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