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Am I at Risk for Dementia?

My wife teases me about my memory almost daily. I can recite movie lines from shows I saw twenty years ago, but I forget to give the dog fresh water. These may sound like normal marital happenings, but I have found myself becoming more and more forgetful. More often than not I will have to say “what is that word again?”

I didn’t think too much of this until I saw a post on a psoriasis forum recently from someone experiencing the same thing. After a little research, I found that some autoimmune diseases, psoriasis included, carry the risk of developing dementia.

The study

Researchers looked back at hospital admission records over a period of 13 years from 1999-2012. What they were looking for is if those that were previously admitted for autoimmune diseases were later admitted for dementia. They looked at 25 different types of autoimmune diseases, but I mainly honed in on the findings for psoriasis. What they found is that those with psoriasis had a 29 percent higher risk for developing vascular dementia.1

The findings are new, but the hypothesis is that since autoimmune diseases often cause chronic inflammation, this impacts the brain too. Vascular dementia happens when there is a decreased blood flow to the brain over time, and inflammation makes blood flow more difficult. One other thing they found, which doesn’t come as a surprise to our community, is that those with autoimmune disease were 53 percent more likely to be admitted later on for cardiovascular issues. This is another connection that could be made to explain why the risk is higher.1

What does this mean?

It’s easy to get caught up in the doom and gloom of our disease. It seems like every week there is a new finding showing a link between our disease and some other awful condition. But I have found out the hard way many times that ignoring or denying just leads to worse outcomes. The old saying goes that the evil you know is better than the evil you don’t know. Know the symptoms of vascular dementia. Often the symptoms are gradual and include impaired planning and judgment; uncontrolled laughing and crying; declining ability to pay attention; impaired function in social situations; and difficulty finding the right words.

Once you have vascular dementia, treatment options are limited, so prevention is key. The best thing you can do is to take care of your body. In addition to appropriately treating your disease, the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association put out a set of recommendations. The same steps people take to protect their heart and arteries should also protect the brain. These include the following:

  • Control blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar.
  • Don’t smoke cigarettes.
  • Adopt a heart-healthy diet, such as a Mediterranean-type diet, that is rich in vegetables and fruits, whole grains, oily fish, and unsaturated fats.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation.
  • Spend time with family and friends.
  • Keep your mind active with education, volunteering, and hobbies.
  • Identify and treat depression

Start now

Now, the study didn’t identify the ages of patients they were following, but according to Medscape, the average onset of vascular dementia is between the fourth and seventh decade of life. Do I think my memory problems stem from dementia? Probably not since I am in my early 30s, but you are never too young to start taking care of yourself and thinking about what your future health may look like. I encourage you today to start making small changes and continue to educate yourselves.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Wotton CJ, Goldacre MJ Associations between specific autoimmune diseases and subsequent dementia: retrospective record-linkage cohort study, UK J Epidemiol Community Health 2017;71:576-583.