Surprising risk factors you should know for Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia. There are several habits that can actually increase the risk of the devastating disease.

More than 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, a devastating brain disease that is the most common form of dementia.

Every 65 seconds, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s. By age 65, one in five women will develop Alzheimer’s.

“I forgot so many words in one sentence that I couldn’t have a conversation,” says Virginia Sams, an Alzheimer’s patient.

While there’s no sure-fire way to prevent the disease, researchers are learning more about the risk factors that may cause it.

On World Alzheimer’s Day -- Sept. 21 -- we’re sharing some important risk factors you should know.

Conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels may boost your risk. These include heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, and high cholesterol.

Research also shows people who use anti-anxiety drugs may be at an increased risk for dementia.

A lack of quality sleep may also be to blame for some instances. Researchers at Harvard found people who slept fewer than five hours per night were twice as likely to develop dementia.

“Maintaining a schedule, keeping technology away in the bedroom, not drinking coffee and alcohol before you sleep,” said Dr. Jagdish Khubchadani, a professor of public health at New Mexico State University.

Air pollution might be another culprit. In a study, older adults who lived in areas with a high concentration of air pollution were 1.4 times more likely to have dementia than those who lived in areas with clean air.

The World Health Organization also estimates that smoking may be responsible for 14% of dementia cases worldwide. With Alzheimer’s risk factors to watch for, a recent study published in the journal of Alzheimer’s disease found flu vaccines were linked to a 40% reduced risk of Alzheimer’s.

Hispanics and Latinos are one and a half times more likely to develop dementia than their white counterparts.