Dementia Risk Management

Raising awareness of risk reduction for dementia

A focus of the Victorian Government's dementia framework is on delaying the onset of dementia by implementing risk reduction measures and prevention strategies. The framework encourages promotion of life long lifestyle messages including:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Reducing high blood pressure
  • Reducing high cholesterol
  • Maintaining mental and physical activity
  • Having a healthy diet
  • Maintaining an appropriate weight

The two most common forms of dementia are Alzheimer’s disease, and vascular dementia. 1 There are risk factors associated with the various types of dementia. One particular study in this area has investigated what factors can be used to predict dementia 20 years later from a sample of middle-aged people. This study found that the primary predictors of dementia were age, low education, hypertension, hypercholesterolaemia (high cholesterol) and obesity. 2

Alzheimer’s Australia has compiled information on risk factors for dementia and prevention of dementia and has listed risk factors separately for the two leading types of dementia 1 (click here to access complete report). Only those factors that were categorised as well established, or likely, have been included in the table below.

Alzheimer's Disease
  • Old age
  • Genetic factors:
    • Mutations
    • Down syndrome
    • Apoliprotein E status
    • Family history of Alzheimer's disease
  • Head injury
  • Smaller head size
  • Vascular risk factors (smoking / hypertension)
  • Fatty diet
Vascular Dementia
  • Old age
  • Male gender
  • Hypertension
  • Stroke
  • Family history of vascular disease
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Cardiac disease and major cardiac surgery
  • Elevated homocysteine
  • Obesity
  • Atrial fibrillation

It is important to note when reviewing the lists above that there are some risk factors that can be avoided or lessened (such as obesity or high cholesterol) and there are other risk factors we cannot do anything about (such as genetics or gender). However, having a risk factor which cannot be changed does not mean that person will definitely get dementia and the probability of getting dementia can likely still be reduced by ensuring a healthy lifestyle in relation to the manageable or avoidable risk factors. For example, a person in which hypertension is managed correctly with appropriate treatments and medication has about the same risk of dementia as people without hypertension. 3

References and recommended reading

  1. Alzheimer’s Australia. (2005). Dementia Risk Reduction: The Evidence. Available online from:
  2. Kivipelto, M., Ngandu, T., Laatikainen, T., Winblad, B., Soninen, H., & Tuomilehto, J. (2006). Risk score for the prediction of dementia risk in 20 years among middle aged people: A longitudinal, population-based study. Lancet Neurology, 5, 735-741.
  3. Peila, R., White, L. R., Masaki, K., Petrovich, H., & Launer, L. J. (2006). Reducing the risk of dementia: Efficacy of long-term treatment of hypertension. Stroke, 37, 1167 - 1170.