At least half of all cases of Alzheimer's disease are linked to common risk factors, and researchers believe the number of cases could be sharply reduced if people took steps to tackle those underlying issues. To reduce the risk, researchers say people need to stay active both mentally and physically, quit smoking, and improve their diets, the Globe and Mail reports. The biggest risk factor is having a low level of education, which researchers say is linked to almost a fifth of cases worldwide.
"We are assuming that when you change the risk factor, then you change the risk,” the lead researcher noted. "What we need to do now is figure out whether that assumption is correct." The president of the Alzheimer's Association hailed the research as "another brick in the wall suggesting that Alzheimer's doesn't have to be a passive thing that we wait to come get us"—but he stressed that many of the causes are still unknown. "A lot of people are going to do everything right, and they'll still get Alzheimer's disease. We have to be careful not to blame the victim," he told the San Jose Mercury-News. (Read more dementia stories.)