A set of nine potentially modifiable risk factors have been identified in up to two-thirds of cases of Alzheimer’s disease worldwide, according to a meta-analysis that was published online August 20 in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry. 

Senior author Jin-Tai Yu, PhD, MD, and colleagues analyzed the results of 323 studies, which included 93 potential risk factors and more than 5,000 individuals. The researchers then assessed the population attributable risk for nine globally prevalent risk factors that they determined had strong evidence of an association with Alzheimer’s disease.

Population attributable risk defines the proportion of disease in a defined population that would disappear if exposure to a specific risk factor were to be eliminated. The nine risk factors included obesity, current smoking (in the Asian population), carotid artery narrowing, type 2 diabetes (in the Asian population), low educational attainment, high levels of homocysteine, depression, high blood pressure, and frailty. The combined population attributable risk indicated that these nine, potentially modifiable factors contribute to approximately two-thirds of cases globally. 

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The researchers suggested that preventive strategies that focus on diet, prescription drug use, body chemistry, mental health, underlying disease, and lifestyle might help lower the number of new cases of Alzheimer’s disease.