Dementia: Risk factors and prevention

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Risk factors

There are two kinds of risk factors for dementia: non-modifiable and modifiable.

Non-modifiable risk factors are ones that cannot be changed or eliminated, like aging, family history and genetics. Most cases of dementia aren’t related to genetics or inherited.

The chance of getting dementia generally increases with age. The likelihood of being diagnosed with dementia is more than six times higher in people aged 80 and over compared to those aged 65-79. Not everyone develops the condition as they age.

Modifiable dementia risk factors are ones you can control by taking action such as:

Changes in the brain that may lead to dementia can begin decades before signs or symptoms appear. It is never too early or too late to take action that can benefit your brain health.

Some studies have identified several modifiable risk factors associated with a greater risk of developing dementia. It is estimated that 12 risk factors could explain 40% of cases of dementia globally. These risk factors are organized below according to the time in life when each is usually expected to begin playing a role; if they remain present, their impact is expected to continue throughout the rest of life. These factors can also impact an individual’s overall health, including the prevention and management of other chronic conditions such as diabetes.

Age group Risk factor Increased chance of developing dementia compared to someone without this risk factor
Early life (under 45 years of age) Lower levels of education 60%
Midlife (45 to 65 years old) Hearing loss 90%
Traumatic brain injury 80%
Hypertension 60%
Obesity 60%
Alcohol use
(more than 21 unitsFootnote * per week)
Later life (over 65 years of age) Depression 90%
Smoking 60%
Social isolation 60%
Diabetes 50%
Physical inactivity 40%
Air pollution 10%
Footnote *

1 unit of alcohol = 10 mL (or 8g of pure alcohol).

Return to footnote * referrer


A healthy lifestyle can help to lower the chance of developing dementia and delay symptoms. It can also help prevent other chronic conditions that in turn are linked to a greater chance of developing dementia.

Healthy lifestyle changes include:

The chance of developing dementia can also be reduced by:

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