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Modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors for dementia: what primary care nurses need to know

02 September 2023
Volume 28 · Issue 9


Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a group of symptoms characterised by behavioural changes, loss of cognitive and social functioning brought about by progressive neurological disorders. There are estimated to be 944 000 people living with dementia in the UK and it is indicated that this will increase to 2 million by 2051. We are learning more about the risk factors for developing dementia over the life course. This paper discusses the modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors for dementia and considers health promotion and health education activities that can be used in a primary care setting.

Dementia is a condition characterised by a set of signs and symptoms, including impaired memory, behavioural changes, and loss of cognitive and social functioning brought about by progressive neurological disorders (Barber, 2020). There are over 200 subtypes of dementia, but the most common are Alzheimer's, vascular, Lewy body, mixed dementia (often a combination of Alzheimer's and vascular) and frontotemporal dementias (Sandilyan and Dening, 2019) (Table 1). There are estimated to be 944 000 people living with dementia in the UK and such modelling indicates this will increase to 2 million by 2051 (Wittenberg et al, 2019). While dementia is associated with advanced age, an estimated 7.5% or 70 800 people are living with young onset dementia, where symptoms occur under the age of 65 years (Carter et al, 2022). Dementia and Alzheimer's disease are progressive and life-limiting conditions, and are the leading cause of death for females in England and Wales, accounting for 40 250 deaths (14.0% of all female deaths) (Office for National Statistics (ONS), 2021).

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