Tuesday 6 December 2016

Environment 'affects dementia'

Published 25/10/2016 | 02:30

55,000 people in Ireland are now living with dementia
55,000 people in Ireland are now living with dementia

Experts have created a shortlist of environmental factors that may contribute to our risk of developing dementia, which affects 55,000 people in Ireland.

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The list includes exposure to air pollution and a lack of vitamin D - but researchers caution that the evidence is not yet sufficient to draw solid conclusions.

It comes as the HSE today launches a new campaign 'Understand Together' aimed at inspiring people to stand together with the 500,000 whose lives have been touched by dementia.

A HSE spokeswoman said there are over 4,000 under-65s living with dementia and each year another 4,000 are diagnosed.

Dementia is known to be associated with lifestyle factors such as high blood pressure in mid-life, smoking, diabetes, obesity, depression and low educational attainment, as well as genetic factors.

These risk factors however, leave around a third of dementia risks unexplained. Research led by the University of Edinburgh sought to determine whether other issues are at play, including the environment in which we live. Dozens of previous studies have considered environmental risk factors linked to dementia. They found that a lack of vitamin D - produced by the body through exposure to sunlight - and exposure to air pollution were implicated, along with occupational exposure to some types of pesticide. Excessive levels of minerals found in drinking water may also be linked to the disease.

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