Dementia is a very common and debilitating set of diseases for which there is no cure and relatively ineffective treatment options. A 2022 study showed that about 10% of people over age 65 suffer from dementia, and another 22% have mild cognitive impairment. The likelihood of developing the disease increases with age, up to a whopping 35% among the over-90 population. Dementia in all its forms is currently the seventh leading cause of death.
We are still learning about the risk factors and causes of this disease, and there’s no surefire way to prevent it, but we know enough now to be able to help some people make lifestyle changes to decrease their risk of disease.
Dementia is an umbrella term for many types of cognitive impairment, the most common of which is Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia have a large hereditary component, but they are also impacted by environmental factors. That’s why the team of Ottawa researchers at Big Life Project developed a dementia calculator – to help people understand their risk level and what they can do to mitigate that risk.
The dementia calculator is specially designed for people aged 55 and older, and it predicts a person’s risk of developing dementia (or at least a diagnosable degree of it) within the next five years.
The quiz takes just 5-10 minutes to complete and asks simple and straightforward questions such as your biological sex, age, height, weight, smoking status, alcohol consumption, exercise, education level, race, and marital status.
“Overall, we found that it actually works really well,” says Stacey Fisher, the lead researcher of the project. Fisher came up with the project as part of her PhD.
Of course, Fisher acknowledges that some of the top risk factors for dementia, such as age, are things we can do nothing about. Her project mostly focuses on the modifiable risk factors in order to help people decrease their risk as much as possible.
Roughly one in three dementia cases is believed to be preventable. You can try taking the quiz multiple times, changing some of the lifestyle factors each time to see how much you could impact your own dementia risk.
We hope tools like this one can help motivate people to take control of their habits and make better choices for their health.