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Preventing Alzheimer’s dementia

BMJ 2017; 359 doi: (Published 07 December 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;359:j5667
  1. Andrew Sommerlad, Wellcome Trust research training fellow1 2,
  2. Gill Livingston, professor of psychiatry of older people12
  1. 1Division of Psychiatry, University College London, UK
  2. 2Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to: G Livingston g.livingston{at}

Prolonging education may protect against dementia through building cognitive reserve

Around 50 million people worldwide have dementia, and with numbers rising because of increasing longevity it is one of the biggest global health and socioeconomic challenges.1 However, declining incidence in several countries2 give us hope that dementia can be prevented by changing lifestyles. There are many putative risk factors, but the Lancet Commission on Dementia calculated that nine factors may account for over a third of the global incidence of dementia.3

In the linked research paper, Larsson and colleagues report the findings of a Mendelian randomisation analysis aiming to clarify whether lifestyle factors have a causal association with Alzheimer’s disease, the commonest form of dementia (doi:10.1136/bmj.j5375).4 The authors examined 24 socioeconomic, dietary, lifestyle, health, and inflammatory factors for which genetic association data were available. They found that genes which predisposed to increased time in education were clearly associated with reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease. There was insufficient evidence for a causal link with other factors. The …

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