May 8 (UPI) -- Increased risk factors for dementia later in life include age, marital status, body mass index and amount of sleep, a data analysis found.
Researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine studied data from the Framingham Heart Study from 1979 until 1983. Their findings were published recently in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.
As dementia is the leading cause of dependence and disability among seniors worldwide and because there's no effective medication treatment for it, researchers hope to identify life-related factors to reduce peoples' risk.
"This study is the first step in applying machine learning approaches to identifying new combinations of factors that are linked to increased risk of dementia later in life," study author Dr. Rhoda Au, professor of anatomy and neurobiology at Boston University said in a press release. "By focusing on modifiable risk factors, we are hoping to identify disease risk factors that are amenable to change, enabling the possibility of preventing dementia."
The researchers looked at data of 2,461 participants from Framingham, Mass., and whether subsequently were diagnosed with dementia.
The study determined that, over 30 years of follow-up, there were 96 diagnoses of dementia in men and 131 diagnoses in women.
Strongly associated with dementia were age, marital status of "widowed," lower BMI and less sleep at mid-life.
The risk of dementia in groups 50-59 years old and 60-65 years old were 3.4 times and 9.8 times greater than the 40-49 group, respectively.
Researchers hope this information can assist primary care physicians.
"We wanted to identify information that any physician or even non-physician has easy access to in determining potential increased future risk for dementia," Au said. "Most dementia screening tools require specialized training or testing, but the front line for screening are primary care physicians or family members."
The information can be used to help patients alter their lifestyles and lessen dementia risk.
"Demographic and lifestyle factors that are non-invasive and inexpensive to implement can be assessed in midlife and used to potentially modify the risk of dementia in late adulthood," Au said.