If your partner lacks this quality they may be at an increased risk of dementia says study

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Dementia is the general term for a cluster of symptoms associated with brain decline that gets progressively worse over time. Unfortunately, there is no known cure or way to prevent dementia but progress has been made to identify the underlying risk factors. The value in discovering risk factors of dementia as early as possible is that it presents an opportunity to try and mitigate the risk.

It also buys the person affected with a crucial window to make preparations and prolong quality of life for as long as possible.

New research published in the journal Neurology has found an association between a particular mindset and a reduced risk of dementia.

According to the research, those who lack interest in the world around them are at an increased risk of developing dementia.

To confirm their hypothesis, the research team looked to see whether developing dementia was linked to apathy.

People with apathy often have a lack of interest in the world around them, with signs of apathy including stopping taking part in normal activities, showing little emotion, and a lack of energy.

In this study, the team used a questionnaire designed to evaluate apathy in over 2,000 people and to discriminate apathy from depression and anxiety.

They divided the volunteers into groups corresponding to low, moderate, or severe apathy.

The team determined whether people developed dementia with an algorithm based on information on dementia medication use, hospital records, or a significant decline in memory and thinking.

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The team followed participants up over nine years and found 381 volunteers developed likely dementia.

They found that severe apathy was linked with an increased risk of dementia compared to low apathy.

Apathy was also associated with worse memory and thinking at the beginning of the study, but not rate of change over time.

Commenting on the findings, Dr Sara Imarisio, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “Symptoms of apathy are common in dementia and are not necessarily symptoms of depression.

“Many people with dementia are mistakenly diagnosed as having depression, particularly in the early stages.

“Building a better understanding of some of the less well-recognised symptoms of dementia, like apathy, could inform our efforts to develop better treatments for the condition.”

Dr Imarisio added: “The scientists in this study used algorithms to identify likely dementia, and a dementia diagnosis wasn’t necessarily confirmed by a doctor.

“It’s important to understand how health and lifestyle factors can influence dementia risk and it’s still not clear whether apathy contributes to memory problems or vice versa.

“To continue to unpick this link and make real breakthroughs for people who need them, we need to see sustained investment in dementia research.”

Ways to reduce your risk

Evidence shows there are things you can do to help reduce your own risk of developing dementia.

According to Alzheimer’s UK, doing regular physical activity is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of dementia.

“It’s good for your heart, circulation, weight and mental wellbeing,” explains the charity.

Each week, you should aim for either:

  • 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, riding a bike or pushing a lawnmower, or
  • 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, such as jogging, fast swimming or riding a bike up a hill.

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