3 HUGE risk factors for dementia.

Plus: Are pee breaks keeping you up at night?

Monday. First off, happy Celiac Awareness Month! Did you know that close to 2 million people in the U.S. have celiac disease? And on top of that, many Americans probably don’t even know that celiac is why bagels give them tummy aches. So, if bread doesn’t really make you feel super hot, it might be worth talking to a doctor. 

In other news, the Biden administration plans to reclassify cannabis as a Schedule III drug, opening the door for pharmaceutical companies to sell and distribute medical cannabis. How exciting!? Or troubling?! I haven’t made up my mind.

And now, for today’s newsletter topic: what are THREE risk factors you should consider to reduce your risk of dementia? Let’s dive in.

Today’s Menu 🌿

  • 🧠 3 HUGE risk factors for dementia.

  • Are 🚽 pee breaks keeping you up at night?

  • When is moldy food ok to eat 🤢?

  • The 🍌 Daily Recipe is a protein bar you can make yourself!

  • Are meat substitutes 🍖 better for you than the real thing?

Read Time: 4 minutes

Old woman covering her face

3 HUGE Risk Factors For Dementia

Diabetes, air pollution, and alcohol are now recognized as significant risk factors for dementia, according to new research (READ THE STUDY HERE). 

Researchers found that these three factors significantly affect the brain's most sensitive areas, which are crucial for processing information and are the first to deteriorate as we age. This study, which involved nearly 40,000 adults in Britain, highlights how these risks influence regions of the brain that are vulnerable to Alzheimer's disease and schizophrenia.

Dementia is a condition that impairs cognitive functions such as memory, thinking, and reasoning. It is a global issue, with over 55 million people affected, a number expected to almost triple by 2050. As we grow older, all of us lose brain neurons, but for those with dementia, this loss is much faster and more severe, leading to significant cognitive decline.

To come to their conclusions, researchers analyzed brain scans from participants of the U.K. Biobank. They examined 161 factors that could potentially be modified, like blood pressure, cholesterol, and lifestyle habits such as smoking and diet. Out of all these, diabetes, the presence of nitrogen dioxide (a type of air pollution), and frequent alcohol consumption emerged as having the most profound impact. 

These factors had roughly double the effect on the brain compared to other risks like sleep issues, obesity, and smoking. Double—that’s a lot. 

This research is part of an ongoing effort to understand how lifestyle and environmental factors can accelerate the progression of cognitive diseases. It builds on previous findings, such as those in a 2020 Lancet report, which identified multiple modifiable risk factors that could account for up to 40% of dementia cases globally. These include hypertension, hearing loss, and obesity.

However, while the findings are compelling, they come with an important caveat. The study participants are generally healthier and more motivated than the average population, which might limit how widely these results can be applied. Still, they underscore a crucial message: lifestyle choices play a significant role in our cognitive health as we age. Well, duh, but the message is worth repeating. 

So, what can you do to mitigate these risks? Eating a healthy diet can help manage blood sugar levels, which is vital for those at risk of diabetes. Reducing exposure to air pollution, particularly from traffic, and moderating alcohol intake are also critical. In addition, staying socially and physically active can boost cognitive health. 

We should all engage in conversations, exercise, and have diverse experiences. In other words, live a little! 

Interestingly, addressing hearing loss is also critical, as it can remove opportunities for stimulating interactions essential for brain health. And, of course, quitting smoking has a multitude of health benefits, including better cognitive function.

The key takeaway?  While individuals can take many steps to protect their cognitive health, researchers from this recent study emphasize that it is not just an individual responsibility. Governments also need to create policies that help reduce these risks, making it easier for everyone to lead healthier lives. We should educate people on the simple things they can do to prevent diabetes, encourage exercise in schools, and make the necessary changes to food policy so that processed junk isn’t cheaper and more accessible than real food. 

Is that really too much to ask for?  

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