Being raised in the countryside 'doubles Alzheimer's risk' - but researchers have no idea why

Growing up in the countryside could double the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, research suggests.

Experts say there is a link between rural living and the disease – and people raised in the country, rather than those who moved there later in life, face the greatest dangers.

However, the reasons for this remain a mystery, they said.

Dr Tom Russ, from the Alzheimer Scotland Dementia Research Centre at the University of Edinburgh, who led the study, said: ‘We don’t really know the mechanism.

‘It could be to do with access to healthcare, exposure to some unknown substance, socio-economic factors, or a number of other factors.’

He added:  ‘We’re currently looking into this question in more detail.’

Previous studies have looked at how the disease rates vary between urban and rural areas, but the results have been inconclusive due to different definitions of what constitutes city or country life.

To get a clearer picture, researchers from the University of Edinburgh, the Medical Research Council and University College London pooled the results of dozens of studies from all over the world dating back several decades, in a process known as a meta-analysis.

This was designed to give a better overall indication of the risks and benefits of lifestyle and its influence on Alzheimer’s disease.

Their results, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, showed that being born and brought up in the country more than doubled the risk of Alzheimer’s disease later in life.

There was a much smaller increase in risk in other forms of dementia.

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, affecting an estimated 820,000 Britons.

The number of sufferers is expected to more than double in the next 40 years as the elderly population increases.

One of the main symptoms of Alzheimer’s is loss of short-term memory, meaning sufferers may recall things that happened decades ago, but struggle to remember events of the past few days.

Other signs of the disease include lack of concentration, confusion and a tendency to wander aimlessly.

In the final stages, patients often lose the ability to move, speak or even swallow.

The researchers said they now plan to investigate the reason for the link, in the hope of finding a way to protect against the risks.

‘Any attempts at prevention will need to begin sufficiently early in life,’ they said.

Sourced from Daily Mail 18th September 2012