The links between poor health and dementia

People who rate their physical health as only poor or fair could be at greater risk of developing dementia when they grow older, new research has suggested. Published in Neurology - the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, established in 1948 - the study found individuals who feel negatively about their wellbeing are significantly more likely to experience the condition.

Indeed, investigators at the Inserm unit 708 Neuroepidemiology at the University of Bordeaux 2 in France discovered the risk of dementia was 70 per cent greater for adults who deemed their overall health to be poor.

In addition, the authors found the likelihood for people who rated their health as fair was 34 per cent higher than those who deemed theirs to be good.

Christophe Tzourio, director of the facility, suggested having individuals rate their own health could be a simple tool for doctors to use to determine dementia risk. He said: "It's possible that rating one's health as poor might be associated with behaviours that limit social interaction and in turn accelerate the dementia process."

Reinhard Guss, Charered Psychologist, comments: "We know that poor physical health - particularly cardiovascular risks, diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, strokes and previous head injury - increases the risk of developing dementia later in life.
We also know that significant episodes of depression in mid life are associated with an increased likelihood of developing dementia later on. People who are depressed would also be likely to have a more negative view of their own physical health, thus adding to the effect found in this study.
But I am not convinced that asking people to rate their health is a useful way to assess the risk of developing dementia. Surely it must be preferable to assess and treat physical health problems and depression directly to reduce the known long-term risks?"