Poor kidney function increases risk of dementia

People with impaired kidney function have a higher risk of developing memory problems and even dementia, according to an analytic study by researchers Kay Deckers and Sebastian Köhler. Both researchers work at Maastricht University's Alzheimer Centre Limburg (ACL). Their findings were published today in the leading scientific journal Neurology. Identifying these risk factors is the next step in researching prevention strategies for dementia.

Common risk factors

As part of their study, the Maastricht researchers examined the problem of protein in urine, an important indicator of impaired kidney function. Their analysis showed that people with protein in their urine were 35% more likely to develop memory problems or dementia compared to people without impaired kidney function. 'Kidney disease and dementia have several risk factors in common,' says Kay Deckers. 'This includes high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol. The link between impaired kidney function and dementia may involve a similar vascular structure in the kidneys and the brain; however, a more direct link between impaired kidney function and its effect on the brain may also play a role.' Further research is needed to determine whether impaired kidney function causes memory problems or whether both conditions are caused by the same mechanisms.


The research carried out by Deckers and Köhler involved a meta-analysis. The researchers examined all available studies on kidney problems and the development of dementia. They found 22 extensive studies that merited a systematic review. Deckers and Köhler ultimately selected five of these studies, comprising a total of 27,805 participants, for their meta-analysis. 'Our study clearly shows that impaired kidney function does indeed increase the risk of developing dementia,' says Deckers. 'Health care professionals should warn people with impaired kidney function and offer suitable lifestyle advice.'

Brain health

The Maastricht research study was made possible with the help of the European In-MINDD project, which focuses on encouraging brain health by making the appropriate lifestyle changes. The results of their study on the relationship between impaired kidney function and dementia can help the researchers develop a simple test to determine brain health. In addition to kidney disease, a healthy diet, low cholesterol, moderate exercise, not smoking, low to moderate alcohol consumption and sufficient mental stimulation play an important role. The same applies to obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression and cardiovascular disease. This test will ultimately be used to develop an app that can help people maintain their brain health in an effort to prevent dementia.

Also read

  • Patients admitted to hospital due to a severe COVID-19 infection exhibit no evidence of brain damage caused by the disease. This is the conclusion of an extensive study led by Maastricht University.

  • Sten van Beek

    Cold shivers?

    Due to the Western lifestyle with a high fat diet combined with little exercise, more and more people in the Netherlands are overweight or even obese. This causes an increased risk of type II diabetes. What can be done about this besides a healthier lifestyle? The answer comes from an unexpected...

  • Marlou-Floor Kenkhuis

    Quantity and Quality

    Survivors of colon cancer often have symptoms associated with the cancer or treatment for years after treatment, such as fatigue and tingling in fingers and feet. This has a great impact on the perceived quality of life. Whereas current lifestyle advice is mainly aimed at prevention of (colon)...