The 5 common ailments and gross habits that ‘increase your risk of dementia’ revealed – and tips to protect yourself

The 5 common ailments and gross habits that ‘increase your risk of dementia’ revealed – and tips to protect yourself

MOST of us know about the importance of eating well and getting lots of sleep to help our brains fight off the risk of dementia.

But as it turns out, there are a bunch of seemingly harmless ailments, like cold sores, common conditions and grim habits – which could also increase our risk.

GettyDepression can increase the risk of dementia by 51 per cent[/caption]

Scientists from Sweden found those who carry the herpes simplex virus (HSV) – the main cause of the pesky sores – were twice as likely to develop the brain-robbing condition than those who have never been infected.

Other research has revealed that other conditions, like depression and hearing loss could also bring on the condition.

Some gross habits, like picking your nose, have also been found to increase your risk.

In the past two years, two new drugs have shown breakthrough success in slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s – the most common form of dementia.

But these are years away from approval, and the side effects are currently unclear.

While we wait for a cure, it’s worth implementing some lifestyle changes to keep your brain in tip-top shape.

1. Depression

Symptoms include:

Feeling down, upset or tearful

Being restless, agitated or irritable

Feeling guilty, worthless and down on yourself

Feeling empty and numb

Feeling solated and unable to relate to other people

Finding no pleasure in life or things you usually enjoy

Getting angry or frustrated over minor things

A sense of unreality

No self-confidence or self-esteem

Feeling hopeless and despairing

Feeling tired all the time

Anyone who has suffered from depression will know it is a deeply debilitating condition.

The mental illness – experienced by one in six Brits – can also make someone more likely to suffer from dementia in later life.

Scientists in China found depression increased the risk of dementia by 51 per cent.

The research, published in Biological Psychiatry, suggested that the degree of risk depended on how severe the depression is.

Those most at risk were those with chronic depression –  low mood that lasts for weeks or months and affects daily life – or depression which increased in severity over time.

Those with mild to moderate depression, which decreased over a lifetime, experienced no greater dementia risk than participants without depression.

2. Hearing loss

Common signs include:

Difficulty hearing other people clearly and misunderstanding what they say, especially in noisy places

Asking people to repeat themselves

Listening to music or watching TV with the volume higher than other people need

Difficulty hearing on the phone

Finding it hard to keep up with a conversation

Feeling tired or stressed from having to concentrate while listening

Around 12million people in the UK are affected by some sort of hearing loss.

It can have a significant impact on every aspect of a sufferer’s life – from their ability to socialise to perform simple daily tasks.

Some studies have now found links between hearing loss and cognitive decline – a precursor for dementia

Research by John Hopkins Medicine found that mild hearing loss doubled a person’s dementia risk, while moderate loss tripled it, and severe impairment increased it five-fold.

Another study, published in The Lancet in 2020, identified hearing loss as one of 12 key changeable risk factors for dementia.

Experts have suggested this could be because people who struggle to hear socialise less, and reduced engagement in social activities and loneliness are known risk factors for demenita.

3. Picking your nose

Aside from the fact it is gross, picking at your nose is pretty harmless, right? Apparently not.

Scientists claim the disgusting habit most of us indulge in in private could increase your risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

The study carried out by Griffith University researchers on mice found a small link between nose-picking and the build-up of proteins associated with the brain-robbing disease.

The Austrialian researchers said poking around your nose could damage the protective internal tissues, making it easier for dangerous bacteria to reach your brain.

4. Smoking

Those who puff on cigarettes put themselves at risk of lots of health issues, including cancer and heart disease.

The nasty past time loved by 6.4millions Brits can also make dementia more likely.

According to the Alzheimer’s Society, smoking an increase your risk of the brain disease by between 30 and 50 per cent.

Some researchers have even estimated that 14 per cent of dementia cases worldwide may be attributable to smoking.

5. Guzzling on sugar-free drinks

Look around any office in the UK and you’re likely to see at least one person chugging back a diet drink of sorts.

The popular fizzy beverages – once hailed as healthy alternatives to their fat-filled versions – have been making headlines in recent years for being just as unhealthy.

One Australian study, published in 2017, found people who drink at least one artificially-sweetened beverage every day may have an increased risk of developing demenita.

The scientists reviewed what people were drinking at three different points in time over seven years.

They kept in touch with the same people for the next ten years to see who developed dementia.

There was a link between developing dementia and drinking artificially-sweetened beverages, but not with drinking ones that had been sweetened with sugar.

6. Boozing

A glass of wine or pint of beer most evenings feels pretty inoffensive.

But your favourite tipple is probably contributing to your dementia risk – even if drunk in “safe” quantities, a study has claimed.

For many (especially us Brits), alcohol is one of life’s greatest pleasures and so by default, has to be limited.

The NHS recommends sticking to 14 units or less per week for every adult in the UK.

But a 2021 study published in the journal Aging and Mental Health says that drinking eight units per week raises the risk of developing dementia, including the most commonly diagnosed Alzheimer’s.

Eight units a week is the equivalent of five glasses of small wine (7.5 units) or just under three pints of high strength beer (9).

It could also be a glass of whisky per evening or eight gin and tonics over the week.

The researchers from the UK studied people over the age of 50, just before memory may start to get a little hazy.

However, a newer study – published in last year – found drinking up to two cans of beer or glasses of wine a day may lower your risk of suffering from brain eating disease.

Scientists from South Korea analysed health data from four million people in the country who were tracked for up to eight years.

Those who had one can of beer or glass of wine a day had a 21 percent lower risk of dementia compared to nondrinkers, while those who had two daily bevs had a 17 per cent lower risk. 

But anyone consuming alcohol in higher amounts – three or more drinks a day – had an eight percent higher risk.

The experts suggested booze in lower amounts can protect against dementia because it reduces inflammation in the brain and blood thickness, allowing blood to flow better.

How to reduce your risk of dementia

Experts agree that what’s good for your heart is also good for your brain. This means you can help reduce your risk of dementia by:

Eating a balanced diet (which includes five portions of fruit and veg per day)
Maintaining a healthy weight (a BMI score of between 18.5 and 24.9)
Exercising regularly (at least 150 minutes of physical activity over a week)
Keeping alcohol within recommended limits
Stopping smoking
Keeping your blood pressure at a healthy level (between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg)

Source: NHS