You’re More Likely to Develop Dementia If You Have 1 of These Devastating Health Conditions

There are many possible things that increase your dementia risk. Your age and genes matter — the older you get, the greater your risk — but they aren’t the only factors at play. Your daily habits don’t just affect you in the near future. They can predict how healthy you will, or won’t, be years from now.

Certain health conditions, like high blood pressure and obesity, also increases your chances of developing dementia. Here are the ones you probably didn’t know about.

Your lifestyle predicts your dementia risk

Smoker smoking

Smoking increases your chances for a lot of diseases. | Terroa/iStock/Getty Images

There is an indirect connection between bad habits — such as smoking — and dementia risk. Smoking, for example, increases your chances of developing certain types of heart disease, which further increases your risk of dementia. The higher your overall disease risk, the more likely you are to get sick.

Next: Many who live with this condition don’t know the long-term risks.

Type 2 diabetes

young man using lancelet on finger

Diabetes can lead to other health problems. | iStock.com/IPGGutenbergUKLtd

People with this type of diabetes are often resistant to the insulin their body produces, resulting in dangerously high blood sugar levels. This condition can cause nerve damage, ruin your kidneys, and even increase your dementia risk.

Next: This condition usually shares a link with poor diet.

High cholesterol

Cholesterol level chart

High levels of cholesterol can lead to a heart attack. | iStock.com/designer491

There are two types of cholesterol in your body — HDL (“good”) and LDL (“bad”). Things get tricky when you have more bad cholesterol in your blood than good. It can contribute to the buildup of plaque in your arteries and eventually might lead to a heart attack.

Next: It’s important to take your mental health seriously.

Depression

Young sad mad sitting by the window

Depression can lead to a number of illnesses. | Marjan_Apostolovic/iStock/Getty Images

People living with depression have a greater chance of developing dementia if it’s not treated properly. While you can’t control whether or not you develop mental health issues at any point in your lifetime, you can take steps to get help.

Next: There’s a specific type of dementia associated only with this infection.

HIV/AIDS

Blood collection tube with HIV test label

HIV can lead to dementia. | iStock.com/dina2001

Some people develop HIV-associated dementia in the later stages of the infection, with symptoms similar to other types of cognitive decline. It’s most likely the virus itself that disrupts normal mental function, not the side effects of the infection.

Next: This condition is dangerous because it often presents without symptoms.

Atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis wreaks havoc on your heart. | Mike Simons/Getty Images

This is a type of heart condition in which plaque buildup in the arteries of your heart cause them to harden or narrow. This makes it harder for your heart to pump blood to where it needs to go, and increases your risk of other, more dangerous complications.

Next: Your head and your heart sometimes work together, and not in a good way.

Heart disease

Stethoscope sitting on an red ECG printout

heart disease and dementia are closely related. | iStock.com/RTimages

Atherosclerosis and other heart-related conditions can all contribute to heart disease, which is a major risk factor for dementia. Researchers have noted that long-term damage to your heart might possibly lead to a decline in mental function over time.

Next: This health condition is no joke.

High blood pressure

Doctor's Hand Checking Blood Pressure

High blood pressure and dementia are linked. | iStock.com/AndreyPopov

Uncontrolled high blood pressure puts you at risk for a handful of terrible diseases — dementia is just one of them. You’re at a higher risk of diabetes and heart disease, and both of these also increase your chances of developing dementia. Your outcomes might improve if you control your blood pressure.

Next: Some psychological disorders can become a problem, too.

Alcohol use disorder

That drink may hit you harder than you think.

Excessive drinking has negative effects on your brain. | Bogdanhoda/Getty images

This is the term used to diagnose excessive alcohol use that a person has little to no control over. But drinking large amounts of alcohol, whether you have AUD or not, is still one of those habits that puts you at risk for developing dementia.

Next: Memory problems don’t always lead to dementia, but they might.

Mild cognitive impairment

WPeople with MCI are at higher risk of dementia. | Monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images

Developing MCI isn’t a definite precursor to dementia, and people with MCI aren’t necessarily going to experience worsening mental decline. However, they’re more at risk than those who don’t have this condition at all.

Next: Poor diet can also cause this harmful condition.

Abnormal homocysteine levels

pills and multivitamins

Make sure you’re getting enough vitamins. | Valentina_G/iStock/Getty Images

Homocysteine is a type of protein that can increase your dementia risk if there’s too much of it in your blood. People with vitamin B deficiencies can take medication to treat the condition, but it doesn’t solve the underlying problem (inadequate diet).

Next: Your weight matters, at least when it comes to disease risk.

Obesity

Obesity wreaks havoc on your body. | iStock

Some research suggests that those with a higher body mass index are at an increased risk of dementia compared to those with a BMI in the “normal” range. While it isn’t always the best way to measure a person’s overall health, your weight can play a role in the development of multiple chronic conditions.

Next: People with this condition often get dementia early in life.

Down syndrome

first annual Disability Pride Parade

Middle-aged people with Down syndrome are at risk for dementia. | Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

Usually, when a person displays symptoms of cognitive decline before the age of 65, we call it early onset dementia. Unfortunately, individuals living with Down syndrome often experience this decline by middle age, shortening their life expectancy and diminishing their quality of life.

Next: What are the risk factors you might not know about — but need to?

Other dementia risk factors

Older people are at higher risk for dementia.| iStock.com

You can do a lot to prevent disease throughout your life. Some dementia risk factors, however, can’t be controlled. Your age, gender, ethnicity, and genes all either increase or decrease your risk from birth. It’s important to take these things into account when evaluating the changes you can actually make.

Next: Can you prevent dementia from taking over your life?

How to reduce your dementia risk

senior couple reading a map while traveling

A happy, active life decreases your risk for dementia. | jacoblund/iStock/Getty Images

Reducing your risk isn’t as difficult as it might seem. While you can’t get any younger or erase your family history, you can make small changes to your diet, smile more, alter your attitude, and even try learning a new skill. All these positive habits add up — and, hopefully, will add many healthy years to your life.

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