Dementia, the as-yet incurable loss of memory and cognition, is a devastating illness, both for the victim and their families. And it’s likely to become an even larger health problem over time. Over 6 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia. By 2050, that number is expected to reach nearly 13 million.
Age is the largest contributor to dementia, a risk factor that’s not exactly easy to avoid. But there are many other variables that seem to have an effect, from the more obvious (like head injuries, air pollution, and excessive alcohol consumption) to the more surprising (like using a hearing aid if needed). The factors on this list are still being studied, and the evidence is far from settled, but they help showcase how much the body’s various systems are connected.