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13 October 2016 11:10
Air pollution, unpure water and vitamin D deficiency are all included in a shortlist of environmental risk factors for dementia
Scientists say there is strong evidence air pollution and vitamin D deficiency can cause dementia.
Research have compiled a shortlist of environmental risk factors for dementia after reviewing dozens of studies investigating risk factors for Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia besides those linked to genetics, medical conditions and lifestyle.
Lack of vitamin D, air pollution, exposure to some types of pesticide and excessive minerals in drinking water were all found to raise dementia risk.
More research is needed
However, experts are stressing that the research only shows associations rather than proven causes of the condition.
Lead scientist Dr Tom Russ, from the University of Edinburgh, said: "Our ultimate goal is to prevent or delay the onset of dementia. Environmental risk factors are an important new area to consider here, particularly since we might be able to do something about them."
He added that more research is needed find out whether the risk factors are actually causing dementia and how, and if so, what can be done to prevent it.
Looking after your heart is 'better way to avoid dementia'
Responding to the report, an expert says the risk factors listed in the study only increase the risk of dementia by a tiny percentage.
Professor Robert Howard, an expert on old age psychiatry at University College London, said: "There is robust evidence that head trauma and poor cardiovascular health increase dementia risk.
"But most of the environmental factors identified in this review probably represent no realistic increase or only a vanishingly tiny increased risk for dementia."
He added a better way to avoid dementia is to "look after your heart and try to avoid getting knocked unconscious."
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