New study gives fresh insight into young onset dementia risk

A major study, published by the JAMA Neurological Journal, has provided greater insight into the risk factors associated with developing young onset dementia (dementia under the age of 65). 

The study challenges the concept that genetics are the sole cause of young onset dementia, and lists factors not previously associated with developing dementia, including vitamin D deficiency and levels of proteins, called C-reactive proteins, in the blood. 

Other risk factors, which are already associated with developing dementia when you’re over 65, were also linked to young onset dementia. These factors include alcohol abuse, stroke, depression, social isolation, diabetes and hearing impairment. 

Professor David Llewellyn, one of the study authors, said this study was the, “Largest and most robust study of its kind ever conducted,” with scientists from the Netherlands collaborating with colleagues in the UK. 

Dr Stevie Hendriks, a researcher at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, said: “Young-onset dementia has a very serious impact, because the people affected usually still have a job, children and a busy life.

“The cause is often assumed to be genetic, but for many people we don’t actually know exactly what the cause is. This is why we also wanted to investigate other risk factors in this study.”

Dr Leah Mursaleen, Head of Clinical Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK (which co-funded the study) – said the results started to fill, “An important gap in our knowledge.” 

“We’re witnessing a transformation in understanding of dementia risk and, potentially, how to reduce it on both an individual and societal level,” she said. 

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