Swedish scientist Laura Fratiglioni has shown how everyone can minimize the risk for dementia.
Laura Fratiglioni's research group at Karolinska Institutet has shown that the risk is partly determined by an individual genetic susceptibility, and that active involvement in mental, physical and social activities can delay the onset of dementia by preserving cognitive functions.
"The brain, just as other parts of the body, requires stimulation and exercise in order to continue to function. Elderly people with an active life - mentally, physically and socially - run a lower risk of developing dementia, and it doesn't matter what the particular activities are," said Fratiglioni.
Physical factors are important too - not only high and low blood pressure, but also diabetes and obesity when middle-aged increase the risk of developing dementia after the age of 70.
"What is good for the heart is good for the brain," she said.
Knowledge about risk factors and how to protect the brain from dementia is based on observational studies in which scientists have discovered statistical correlations in the population.
"You could say that we are progressing from observation to experiment. This means that in a few years we will know more about which strategies are most effective in preventing neurodegenerative disorders," Fratiglioni concluded.