senior man with depression in wheel chair

More than one third of Alzheimer’s cases were tied to eight modifiable risks, according to a new study from a team of researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles and UC San Francisco. 

The eight modifiable risk factors include midlife obesity, midlife hypertension, physical inactivity, depression, smoking, low education, diabetes and hearing loss. The risk factors differ based on sex, race and ethnicity.

The researchers conducted a similar study a decade ago based on a cross-sectional analysis of Alzheimer’s patients nationwide and found physical inactivity, depression and smoking were the most important risk factors. A different set of risk factors prevailed in the most recent study.

“Today, the top three risk factors are midlife obesity, physical inactivity and low education,” study co-author Deborah Barnes, PhD, MPH, of UC San Francisco told MedPage.”This is important because it suggests that the growing number of people who are obese in the U.S. could have a major long-term impact on dementia rates.” 

For the most recent study, the research team gathered risk factor prevalence information from more than 378,600 participants in a 2018 CDC Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and extracted relative risks for each factor from recent meta-analyses.

Midlife hypertension and midlife obesity were the most prevalent risk factors among all participants, but the prevalence varied by race and ethnicity. Midlife obesity was more prevalent among American Indian and Alaska Native, Black and Hispanic populations. Low education was prevalent among Hispanics. 

The Biden administration recently announced an effort to direct resources to develop programs that address Alzheimer’s and dementia-related diseases among Native American tribes. On Monday, the Indian Health Service said it would allocate $5 million in funds to address the disease within tribal communities, tribal organizations and urban Indian organizations. 

The $1.5 trillion spending bill President Joe Biden signed in March contained an additional $290 million for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.