A healthy lifestyle is not enough: social inequalities increase the risk of dementia ⋆ News from Leipzig

The poor are also at risk of contracting a particularly debilitating disease as they age. This is now confirmed by a study from the University of Leipzig. Dementia-related illnesses are increasing in Germany. Due to the lack of treatment options, the focus is on preventing dementia. A healthy lifestyle in particular is believed to benefit brain health. A medical school study today shows that the opportunities for a healthy lifestyle are unevenly distributed.

Because social disadvantage goes hand in hand with a higher risk of dementia. The current findings were published in the journal Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

As the population ages, dementia is on the rise. About 1.8 million people in Germany currently suffer from dementia. Population statistics predict an increase to around 3 million by 2050.

International research shows great potential for the prevention of dementia based on modifiable health and lifestyle factors such as high blood pressure, obesity, physical and mental activity and diet. In other words, a healthy lifestyle is good for brain health.

Dementia risk factors

“But the chances are unevenly distributed,” says Dr. Susanne Röhr, current study leader and scientist at the Institute for Social Medicine, Occupational Medicine and Public Health (ISAP) at the University of Leipzig. “Socially disadvantaged people, such as people with low incomes, generally have a higher risk of dementia.”

The researchers use data from more than 6,200 participants in the LIFE Adult Study at the Center for Research on Diseases of Civilizations in Leipzig. The proportion of women and men is the same. The subjects are between 40 and 79 years old and do not have dementia.

The population-based cohort study’s large database allows scientists in Leipzig to map a complex lifestyle index with twelve variable risk factors for dementia. These include high blood pressure, physical activity, smoking, obesity, and dietary habits.

Next, the influence of the index on the relationship between socioeconomic factors, such as education, employment status and household income, and mental performance, neuropsychological test results, is examined.

The results of the present study show that differences in mental functioning due to social inequalities are associated with modifiable health and lifestyle factors for dementia.

“This suggests that lifestyle interventions could reduce social inequalities in cognitive performance,” adds Prof. Dr. Steffi Riedel-Heller, director of ISAP.

However, health and lifestyle factors explained only a small part of the differences in mental performance due to socioeconomic factors. The results of the study therefore also indicate that more emphasis can be placed on the social conditions themselves.

“Policy measures aimed at reducing social inequalities could therefore make a significant contribution to reducing the risk of dementia,” explains Dr. tube.

original title the publication in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease: Socioeconomic inequalities in cognitive functioning only to a small extent attributable to modifiable health and lifestyle factors in people without dementia

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