The greatest risk factor for dementia is advanced age. Inheriting the genes associated with Alzheimer's or Huntington's disease is a risk factor. Untreated infectious and metabolic disease and substance abuse also can lead to dementia.

Other risk factors include the following:

  • Brain tumor
  • Cardiovascular disease (e.g., high blood pressure, high cholesterol, atherosclerosis)
  • Diabetes
  • Head injury
  • Kidney failure, liver disease, thyroid disease
  • Vitamin deficiencies: B12, folic acid, B1 (thiamine)

Our sister publication REMEDY's Healthy Living (Fall 2015) reports that older adults face double the risk of developing dementia after being hospitalized for pneumonia, according to a study. Other common, less severe respiratory infections also may accelerate the onset of dementia.

It's not known how these infections might increase dementia risk, but the findings highlight the importance of preventing infections in older adults. Two of the best ways to reduce your risk: Get an annual flu shot, and make sure your pneumonia vaccinations are up-to-date.

Updated by Remedy Health Media

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 01 Jan 2000

Last Modified: 16 Oct 2015