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Minor Physical Ailments Increase Chances for Dementia

- Monday, September 19, 2011

A study published in Neurology has found that as problems not traditionally associated with brain health pile up, a person's chance of developing dementia increases.

As we age, those minor physical ailments – including sore feet, poorly fitting dentures and skin irritations – may turn out to be not so minor after all.

The 10-year study included more than 7,200 cognitively healthy 65-year-old Canadians who were asked questions about their health. The questions included known risk factors for Alzheimer's, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, they included 19 problems that seemingly have no connection with brain health – including vision and hearing, loose dentures, sinus congestion, arthritis, morning cough, and problems with the skin, stomach, kidneys or bowel.

Any healthy 65-year-old has an 18% chance of developing dementia in 10 years from aging, the study found that each health problem not traditionally associated with Alzheimer's increased that risk by 3.2%. The risk accelerated as more and more conditions were added, jumping to 40% among those in the study who reported as many as 12 conditions. Since age is a major risk factor for Alzheimer's, the study is in a sense identifying people who "age badly" - their biological age exceeds their chronological age.

Taking care of minor ailments improves a person's quality of life, no one has yet proved that fixing each problem would necessarily reduce the risk for Alzheimer's.

Walking as little as 30 minutes a day, three days a week decreases risk factors for dementia and improves overall health.

Original article AARP