Bad habits cause memory problems even in young adults, a study revealed yesterday.
Years before any indication of dementia appeared, young people who were overweight or obese, had high blood pressure or suffered from depression, were already showing signs of memory loss.
Scientists say the findings help identify how early lifestyle and health choices impact on the brain – opening up new ways to lower the risk of suffering devastating dementia in later life.
Dr Gary Small, director of the University of California Longevity Centre, who carried out the research, said: “In this study, for the first time, we determined these risk factors may also be indicative of early memory complaints, which are often precursors to more significant memory decline later in life.”
The researchers polled more than 18,000 people aged 18 to 99 about their memory and a variety of lifestyle and health factors known to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
These included depression, lower education levels, physical inactivity, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and smoking.
They found that many of these risk factors increased the likelihood of self-perceived memory complaints across all age groups.
Dr Small said they were surprised by the prevalence of memory issues among younger adults.
Depression, low levels of education, physical inactivity and high blood pressure increased the likelihood of memory complaints in all age groups, the researchers found.
In this study, for the first time, we determined these risk factors may also be indicative of early memory complaints, which are often precursors to more significant memory decline later in life.
Depression was the strongest single risk factor for memory complaints across ages.
Having just one risk factor significantly increased the frequency of memory complaints, regardless of age.
And memory complaints rose when the number of risk factors increased.
Overall, 20 per cent of those polled had memory complaints, including 14 per cent of younger adults, 22 per cent of middle-aged adults and 26 per cent of older adults.
The researchers found that, in general, memory issues in younger people tended to be different from those that plagued the older people.
For younger adults, stress may play more of a role, and technology – including the internet and wireless devices, which can often result in constant multi-tasking – appeared to affect attention span, making it harder to focus and remember.
The researchers say their findings, published in the journal PLOS ONE, may help better identify how early lifestyle and health choices impact on memory later in life.
British experts welcomed the findings. Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “This study adds to previous evidence exploring some common risk factors for dementia and might add further to suggestions that health and lifestyle factors are linked to memory problems.
“One limitation is this study relied on people rating themselves for memory performance.
“As people’s opinions on what counts as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ are very variable, people who think they have memory problems may actually be normal or even above average.
“This study and others add to the evidence that physical exercise is one of the better ways to reduce risk of developing dementia, although there is unfortunately no certain way of preventing it.
“Anyone who is concerned that they may be depressed or are worried about their lifestyle should consult their GP.”
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Thanks to the Express for this article