Recent Blog Articles

Harvard Health Blog

Your risk of dementia: Do lifestyle and genetics matter?

September 13, 2019

About the Author

photo of Chirag Patel, PhD

Chirag Patel, PhD, Contributor

Chirag Patel, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biomedical Informatics at Harvard Medical School. His long-term research goal is to address problems in human health and disease by developing computational and informatics methods … See Full Bio
View all posts by Chirag Patel, PhD


As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles.

No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.


Digby Kirby
September 30, 2019

This article was confusing and discouraging.
If I understand it correctly having a healthy life style might make only a small difference in preventing dementia. But I read elsewhere that both the mediteranean diet and the mind diet may reduce the risk of alzheimers by 50%. h

September 30, 2019

After reading “Do lifestyle and Genetics Matter?” I’ve come to a conclusion. We may become demented or we may not. I will however continue with what in my opinion is a healthy diet and lifestyle.

Karen Erwin
September 30, 2019

With all due respect, once again Harvard fails to see the forest for the trees. So far the big players, Harvard, Alzheimer’s Association, Mass General, etc. are sticking so strictly to their “gold standard” for what passes as acceptable research and possible conclusions, that a disease with a dire, devastating prognosis, that is ravaging people, and the families that care for them, has done NOTHING to help anyone. How much money and time has to be down the drain before Harvard entertains the idea that THEY need to approach this disease differently than their usual protocol? Not only has there been zero progress in treating, much less curing Alzheimer’s, the lack of any progress is going to cause investors to decide to invest their money elsewhere. Maybe, given the complete failure of Harvard and friends to do anything to help anyone, it is time to loosen up your strict research protocols and think outside of the box. So sick of getting e-mails that basically offer nothing new or hopeful. Some of the “lesser” powers in medicine are at least trying new, less conventional approaches to figuring this disease out. Harvard, get over yourselves and your very conservative, only we know how to conduct research, loftiness and help the terrible suffering and devastation of real people. Alzheimer’s is clearly not going to fall in line with you and your traditional way of research.

September 30, 2019

Now 65, I have been a dedicated vegetarian since the age of 21.
Health was NEVER the motive. It was and remains a determined ethic, out of covenant with my fellow creature Spirits.

At the age of 18, I had a Tubal Ligation, during my last year of high school. There was NO LOVING way to otherwise prevent Huntington’s in my genes, which could NOT be empirically determined.

At least some 50 individuals in this extended family, have now either died or or will succumb to its horrors. I made the right decision and nothing would have stopped me. How ANYONE would KNOWINGLY subject their OWN children to this HELL and not DO ANYTHING to STOP it from manifesting, is BEYOND reality…..INEXCUSABLE.

NO symptoms have demonstrated, except for some balance issues. I have a strong hunch, that DIET has contributed significantly to delaying onset.

After the genetic world was forEVER altered in the early 90’s, NO ONE should REFUSE DNA testing and foreknowledge in the face of these ABSOLUTE realities. It COULD have and SHOULD have ENDED the NIGHTMARES in ONE generation.

September 30, 2019

Factors such as social interactions and educational ( informal and from different sources) stimulation most likely play a role in this too.

Dr Jijibhoy James Patel,MD
September 30, 2019

A.D. the most common cause of Dementia caused by pathology of Beta Amyloid plaques tangling be researched as to how to prevent that pathology will ultimately be the answer to prevent & or treat A. D.
Healthy diet and healthy life style are required to prevent HTN & stroke. And thereby hopefully may prevent another but smaller % of A.D.
Genomic research ultimately leading to vaccine to prevent A. D. In geneticsayb predisposed individuals. US current study underway is enthusiastically awaited.

September 30, 2019

From Dr. Patel’s piece:
“The lifestyle score was associated with dementia risk. Second, the genetic score was also associated with dementia. In other words, individuals with worse scores were at higher risk for dementia. The researchers further found that genetic risk and lifestyle appeared to act independently of each other. For example, individuals with both an unhealthy lifestyle and a high genetic risk score had almost two and a half times more risk than individuals with a low genetic score and healthy lifestyle.”

I find this paragraph puzzling. The final sentence reads as if it contradicted the previous one, or at least doesn’t build on it. The argument here may be clear to an expert bringing extensive background to the area, but it isn’t to this general public member.

Clyde Chatman
September 30, 2019

My wife has been diagnosed with vascular demensia. Would vitamin k2help in any way?

September 13, 2019

how is pollution a modifiable “lifestyle” factor if the US gov’t is rolling back Clean Air regulations? And if you’re scrambling to pay your rent or mortgage already? It’s not like it’s a secret that poorer parts of the US or urban areas are the most polluted. Nice to put the burden on those who have great difficulty getting by rather then the local, state & federal gov’ts whose “leaders” think income inequality and more pollution (so businesses can increase their profits by laying off costs:–such as controlling toxic/polluting discharges) is just fine–as long as it’s not in their “backyards” or in the “backyards” of their most generous supporters.

September 17, 2019

Clean air isn’t being rolled back any farther than what the standards were in 2008. And if you know ANYTHING about air standards, you’d know that highly efficient cars produce much, much higher levels of NOx pollution that is exceptionally irritating to people with asthma or other sensitivities. That’s the MAIN SOURCE of pollution that most people are constantly exposed to and will continue to be exposed to until electric cars are a practical form of transportation for almost all regular commuters.

Commenting has been closed for this post.

Free Healthbeat Signup

Get the latest in health news delivered to your inbox!

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Thanks for visiting. Don't miss your FREE gift.

The Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness, is yours absolutely FREE when you sign up to receive Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Sign up to get tips for living a healthy lifestyle, with ways to fight inflammation and improve cognitive health, plus the latest advances in preventative medicine, diet and exercise, pain relief, blood pressure and cholesterol management, and more.

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Get helpful tips and guidance for everything from fighting inflammation to finding the best diets for weight loss...from exercises to build a stronger core to advice on treating cataracts. PLUS, the latest news on medical advances and breakthroughs from Harvard Medical School experts.

BONUS! Sign up now and
get a FREE copy of the
Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Stay on top of latest health news from Harvard Medical School.

Plus, get a FREE copy of the Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness.