Your Neighborhood May Increase Your Risk of Dementia

A new study led by Duke University has found that living in a poorer neighborhood is associated with accelerated brain aging and an increased risk of dementia, regardless of an individual’s income level or education.

The findings, published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, suggest that targeting disadvantaged neighborhoods for dementia prevention programs and encouraging clinicians to consider a patient’s address could help lower the risk of this debilitating condition.

“If you want to prevent dementia, and you’re not asking someone about their neighborhood, you’re missing information that’s important to know,” said clinical neuropsychologist Aaron Reuben, Ph.D., who led the study.

The research team analyzed medical records and addresses of 1.41 million New Zealanders, looking at how well-off or disadvantaged each person’s address was on a scale from one to ten. They found that those living in the most disadvantaged areas had a 43% increased risk of developing dementia over 20 years of observation.

Further analysis of data from the Dunedin Study, which has tracked nearly 1,000 New Zealanders since birth, revealed that study members living in disadvantaged neighborhoods across adulthood had measurably poorer brain health as early as age 45. This was evident in fewer or smaller nerve cells in the brain’s information processing areas, less efficient communication between cells across the brain, more atrophy, and potentially, microbleeds.

“It’s not just what personal resources you have, it’s also where you live that matters,” said Avshalom Caspi, Ph.D., one of the study’s co-authors.

The researchers suggest that combating increased dementia risk stemming from disadvantaged neighborhoods may involve community-focused interventions, such as targeting dementia prevention programs to underserved areas or developing vacant lots into pocket parks.

“If you want to truly prevent dementia, you’ve got to start early, because 20 years before anyone will get a diagnosis, we’re seeing dementia’s emergence,” Reuben said. “And it could be even earlier.”

#DementiaRisk #NeighborhoodHealth #BrainAging #PreventionMatters

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