The Biggest Risk Factors for Cognitive Impairment in Older Adults

Disclaimer: Results are not guaranteed*** and may vary from person to person***.

Risk Factors for Memory ProblemsWhen talking to any senior about their changing health as they age, most admit to being concerned about their mental health. Seniors cherish their ability to think, reason, and remember important details. Losing this ability can cause an older adult to be institutionalized in a long term care facility.

Mental diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s often start out slowly and then progress over time. And while cures for the different forms of dementia that can affect seniors have failed to materialize, research has at least found ways to slow down the onset of these terrible conditions.

Take, for example, the results from a recent clinical trial that looked at the prevalence of cognitive impairment amongst elderly people living in Shanghai. None of the participants suffered from cognitive decline at the outset of the study.

The research team recorded associations between demographic, lifestyle, health, and medical factors at the outset of the study. Two years later, the researchers recorded symptoms of cognitive decline in 100 of the study participants. What were the biggest factors that accounted for these cases of cognitive decline?

According to the researchers, high BMI, diabetes, and having a low education were most likely to trigger adverse effects in the brain over time. These adverse changes mostly took the form of memory problems and confusion around time orientation. The researchers concluded that interventions tailored to prevent diabetes, obesity, and a lack of education could potentially prevent symptoms of cognitive decline later in life.

In another similar study, researchers investigated the prevalence of cognitive decline in a separate cohort of elderly people living in Shanghai. They conducted a survey of 3,176 people over the age of 55 in an effort to collect information about the participant’s medical history, demographic characteristics, and medication use. They then screened the participants for cognitive impairment.

A total of 266 people (102 men and 164 women) were identified as being cognitively impaired. Risk factors most associated with these cases of cognitive impairment included a number of social factors: education, marriage status, number of children, and family structure. As for physiological risk factors, once again high blood glucose levels and obesity were at the top of the list. These two risk factors for cognitive impairment were followed closely by a lack of physical exercise, a poor diet, and the presence of other chronic diseases. The researchers also found that anyone with the apolipoprotein E (apope) gene was more likely to experience cognitive decline.

Once you are diagnosed with a form of dementia, it can be very difficult to reverse the onset of this complex and debilitating disease. If you’re a senior, take some advice from the preceding studies and lower your risk for suffering from cognitive decline by eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and watching your weight. Continue to exercise your brain by participating in activities and taking courses at your local community center, college, or university.

Don’t forget that social factors are also important in preventing cognitive decline. Keep active and engaged in social interaction with your family and friends.

Wang, G., et al., “Risk Factors for Cognitive Decline in Elderly People: Findings from the Two-year Follow-Up Study in Shanghai Urban Community,” J Alzheimers Dis. December 9, 2013.
Zhuang, J.P., et al., “Cognitive impairment and the associated risk factors among the elderly in the Shanghai urban area: a pilot study from China,” Transl Neurodegener. November 2012; 1(1): 22.
Wang, G., et al., “Risk Factors for Cognitive Decline in Elderly People: Findings from the Two-year Follow-Up Study in Shanghai Urban Community,” J Alzheimers Dis. December 9, 2013.