28th Jul 2017

Three surprising things that increase your risk of dementia

Are you raising your dementia risk?
Ben Hocking

There are more than 400,000 people living with dementia in Australia, with that number expected to increase to more than half a million by 2025, according to Alzheimer’s Australia.

While there is no cure as yet, there are some drugs that help patients manage their symptoms.

Then there are other medications whose links to dementia are being studied.

The well-known factors that increase a person’s risk of dementia include high cholesterol, alcohol abuse, smoking, genetics and high blood pressure.

But researchers are investigating other causes and recent studies have shown a link between some surprising everyday medications and vitamin deficiencies and dementia.

Heartburn medication
Reflux and heartburn can be particularly painful experiences. The problem is usually treated with a schedule of drugs called proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs). These PPIs decrease acid production in the stomach to prevent reflux. If taken for a short time these drugs are relatively harmless, but doctors have become increasingly concerned with their long-term use.

A German study last year found that continued use of the drugs related to an increased risk of dementia. The study of 74,000 Germans aged over 75, found that regular PPI users had a 44 per cent higher risk of dementia than those not taking PPIs.

Sleeping pills and allergy-relief medication
A University of Washington study found that over-the-counter hayfever tablets, sleeping pills and some asthma medication raised the risk of developing dementia by 60 per cent.

The drugs are known as ‘anti-cholinergics’ which work by blocking acetylcholine, a chemical involved in the transmission of electrical impulses between nerve cells. People with Alzheimer's disease are known to lack acetylcholine and it is feared the pills may exacerbate or trigger the condition.

Last year, researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine believed they discovered a new reason for the link.

The researchers scanned the brains of people who had taken this medication continuously for an average of 2.5 years and found they had smaller brain sizes and decreased metabolism compared to people who did not use the medication. The group using the medication also scored lower on cognitive and memory tests. 

Lack of vitamin D
Despite Australia’s plentiful access to natural sunlight most of the year round, over 30 per cent of the country suffers from mild, moderate or severe vitamin D deficiency. This can be acute among the elderly population, who often find themselves housebound due to other medical complications.

Some research studies have been able to link a severe lack of vitamin D with an increased risk of dementia.

An international research team studied 1658 seniors for six years and found that those that were severely deficient in vitamin D were more than twice as likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s. Participants who were only mildly deficient had an increased risk of 53 per cent.

Another smaller study of 382 participants with an average age of 75 also found links between the vitamin deficiency and the disease. In this group, some had dementia, some display mild cognitive decline and others were healthy. The researchers took blood tests every year for five years and found those who had been diagnosed with dementia had a lower vitamin D average than the other groups.

They also showed that participants with lower levels of vitamin D demonstrated a greater decline in cognitive ability.

If you think you are vitamin D deficient you can try spending more time outdoors, or if this is a problem for you there are supplements available. If you prefer a more natural approach, vitamin D is found in:

  • fatty fish (tuna, mackerel, swordfish and salmon)
  • foods fortified with vitamin D, such as dairy products, orange juice, soy milk, yogurt and cereals
  • beef liver
  • cod liver oil
  • swiss cheese
  • egg yolks


Related articles:
Dementia and managing money matters
Dementia vaccine breakthrough
Dementia: are men seeking help?


To make a comment, please register or login
4th Aug 2017
Alzheimer's has been linked to high levels of Oxidative Stress, a build up of free radical damage in the cells of the brain (refer pubmed.gov)
Reduction of Oxidative Stress is proven to be achieved by activating the cellular nrf2 pathway .... a breakthrough technology. As a result of 40 years of research, a natural nrf2 activator has been developed and is backed by 23 peer-reviewed studies.
I know I will take this for the rest of my life to keep my Oxidative Stress as low as possible ...OS has now been linked to over 200 diseases!
Email me for more information:
John from Perth
4th Aug 2017
I have been retired for two years now. I have worked out that the real cause of Dementia is Free to Air TV. Constantly showing repeated repeats of repeated repeats, repeating constantly.
I lose track of what year I am in.
4th Aug 2017
That's also the biggest cause of domestic arguments and alcoholism, John.... at least during the football season we men get a little relief.....
John from Perth
4th Aug 2017
I have been retired for two years now. I have worked out that the real cause of Dementia is Free to Air TV. Constantly showing repeated repeats of repeated repeats, repeating constantly.
I lose track of what year I am in.
4th Aug 2017
No no - the repetition is so you don't forget! Its the length of the advertisement section that is the real test. Can you actually remember what you were watching when you get to the end of the ad block.
I am so glad I have a digital recorder - it wouldn't be the fear of dementia but rather my sanity!
Did you know you even have to worry about the flab under your chin and a ball strapped around the the knee will stop back pain.
The next test for dementia is when you pick up the phone and start buying the snake oil they are selling.
4th Aug 2017
I'm sure I heard that remark somewhere before.... let me think.. nope - can't remember...
4th Aug 2017
Take this - don't take that.
Some asthma medication? Which one? Prednisone maybe. Good grief - if you are on this stuff its because you will die if you don't take it and extending your life comfortably to 75 is a good thing.
So before the oldies stop taking their medication - those heartburn medications will stop cancer of the esophagus and the asthma medications will keep you breathing.
Don't stop taking anything with out medical advice!
4th Aug 2017
Unfortunately many prescription medications are toxic and cause many more problems in the body! In consultation with a doctor it is often possible to rectify health issues such as asthma and heartburn using safe, natural methods and wean off the toxic drugs.
I personally know people who have completely eliminated their need for prescription meds by reducing their Oxidative Stress with a natural blend of botanicals. This is not snake oil, this is proven science!
I understand that there are situations where prescription meds are absolutely necessary, but too many people opt for meds when there are other much safer alternatives.
5th Aug 2017
Agree 100%, Rosret.
4th Aug 2017
Another advert!!!! Who is the maker of this stuff and what kind of studies on how many people for how long and where and who are the peers? I would want answers to all of those questions before I touched the stuff.

And thanks Rosret for some sensible advice.
4th Aug 2017
This is not an advert .... I'm simply offering a safer alternative because I am passionate about what nrf2 activation does for our cellular health. You will be hearing a lot more about nrf2 activation in the future .... there is already an MS drug developed to activate nrf2 in MS patients. And guess what .... in a head to head study conducted by that pharmaceutical company, the natural, botanical nrf2 activator was twice as potent! (and not $50,000 per year!)
All the studies I refer to are documented in pubmed and other medical publications and have to be reviewed by a panel of independent, anonymous researchers, doctors and scientists who must agree 100% with the findings of the study before it is published.
It's ok to be skeptical as long as one remains open to education.There are a number of medical professionals, such as cardiologists, who are concerned as to why someone needs a stent at the age of 42 for example, who have learned about nrf2 activation and incorporated it into their practices. Hopefully soon this technology and preventative mindset will become mainstream in the medical profession.
4th Aug 2017
Yes Maggie - its annoying but I suppose they pay for the YLC website. I just wish YLC would put "advertisement" next to the article as is done in newspapers and magazines so we know when we are being hood winked.
4th Aug 2017
This is not anything to do with YLC!! This is simply a person who is passionate about helping improve other people's health by educating them about safe alternatives.
4th Aug 2017
Not me - I'm pretty clean on all those... now that stuff in aluminium cans...

Ol' Jim - an in-law/out-law, has been getting pretty vague - his missus took him to the hospital and the doctors said (wait for it) - Not Enough Salt!

They've been herbalising him at home, and I said - give hims some salty chips every day .... he wolfed down two teaspoons of salt (yuk).
4th Aug 2017
It is great to know that there are people out there who are so kind as to want to educate us about health products.

Polly if you let us know what your qualifications are I am sure we will be a lot more receptive to your kindness.
4th Aug 2017
I am studying a course on dementia with the University of Tasmania. Having read the article above I went to the "Ask an expert" forum for this course and asked:
(In brief) "My question is, is this article actually valid. We are all aware of the media not allowing the facts to get in the way of a good story...This article is not correctly referenced.."

This is the reply I received from a Uni Tas research expert"

"Media articles like this can do a good job of making us feel anxious about our dementia risk. As you alluded to, they rarely give us the full story. Certainly there have been studies demonstrating an association between these 3 factors and an increased risk of developing dementia. This research does not provide any evidence that any of these factors "cause" dementia, just that they may slightly increase the risk. And we don't yet know the reasons for the increase in risk. With medications for example, is it the medication that is responsible or the underlying condition the medication is used for? None of these factors exist in isolation, and dementia risk for any individual is a complex combination of genetic, health and lifestyle factors."
4th Aug 2017
PS, Sorry, there should be colon after the word expert, not a quotation mark in the middle paragraph. The respondent to my question is a research expert.
5th Aug 2017
Thank you Jennie for this educated response. We need more people like you to give balance to to the nonsense we are bombarded with by money-grubbing companies eager to profit from concerned and especially older people who are so much more aware of what can go wrong as we age.

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