A list of environmental factors that contribute to the increased risk of suffering from dementia has been drawn up by by scientific experts at Edinburgh University’s Alzheimer Scotland Dementia Research Centre.
The purpose of the list is to identify the factors that trigger or increase the risk of dementia, and to figure out ways to prevent this by conducting further scientific research.
Dr Tom Russ of the Alzheimer Scotland Dementia Research Centre said: "Our ultimate goal is to prevent or delay the onset of dementia. Environmental risk factors are an important new area to consider here, particularly since we might be able to do something about them.”
The environmental factors that have been discovered to increase the risk of dementia include air pollution, lack of vitamin D and exposure to some types of pesticides.
However, scientists involved in compiling the list have also said that more research would need to be done in order to officially establish environmental causes of dementia, because current research focusing on these factors is not comprehensive enough.
Dementia is a condition in which the brain goes into gradual mental decline. There are different types of dementia, such as frontotemporal dementia and dementia with Lewy bodies. The most common types of dementia diagnosed are Alzheimer's Disease - which affects 62 per cent of sufferers - and vascular dementia, which affects 17 per cent.
Common symptoms associated with dementia include memory loss, extreme forgetfulness and increased difficulty with completing basic tasks.
Dementia is much more common in elderly people over the age of 65. Depending on the type of the illness a person has, there are various biological and lifestyle causes. For example, dementia is associated with factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and depression. It is also associated with biological elements such as genetics, chemical imbalances and structures within the brain. The research by Edinburgh University’s Alzheimer Scotland Dementia Research Centre could potentially lead to a major breakthrough in preventing dementia, especially as there is currently no cure.
Meanwhile, dementia remains as one of the most common conditions elderly people suffer. According to Alzheimer's UK, around 850,000 people in the UK deal with the illness, including one in six people over the age of 80.
Nevertheless, there are places of support out there for dementia suffers and their families, friends and loved ones, such as care homes, charities, helplines and various organisations.