Dementia rates fall by a quarter
Published on 17 July 2013 11:30 AM
Rates of dementia in the UK appear to have decreased over the last 20 years, according to new research.
Scientists from Cambridge University found a reduction from expected prevalence levels of almost a quarter during the period.
They compared two surveys of randomly chosen people aged 65 and over conducted two decades apart in Cambridgeshire, Newcastle and Nottingham, before estimating national dementia rates in 1991 and in 2011 from questions about lifestyle and health.
It is calculated that around 670,000 people aged 65 and over now have dementia in the UK - 24% lower than the expected figure based on the prevalence in 1991. Based on the figures from 1991, it was expected that 8% of the population aged 65 or over (800,000 people), would have dementia.
Dementia rates still remain higher in females, however, with 7.7% of women aged 65 and over affected compared with 4.9% of men.
'This study provides compelling evidence of a reduction in the prevalence of dementia in the older population over two decades,' said Professor Carol Brayne, who led the research.
'Whether or not these gains for the current older population will be borne out in future generations would seem to depend on whether further improvements in primary prevention and effective health care for conditions which increase dementia risk can be achieved.'
It's not known whether the decrease will continue to hold true, because some of the risk factors for dementia, such as diabetes, are increasing.
Alzheimer's disease is the most commonly diagnosed form of dementia, with around 417,000 cases in the UK.
In an effort to prevent further cases of Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia, researchers are constantly exploring new treatments.
For instance, trials are currently under way to assess whether a widely used drug called metformin, which reduces the risk of diabetes patients developing Alzheimer's disease, could be also be used as a therapy both for dementia and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) in other people.
'The more we learn about dementia and how it relates to other conditions like diabetes, the more we're able to explore whether existing drugs can double as dementia treatments,' said a spokesperson for the Alzheimer's Society in the UK.
'The drug metformin may be one of the most promising candidates to do just that.'
Copyright Press Association 2013