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Lifestyle changes could prevent dementia

Exercise class

Published on 10 August 2020 06:07 PM

Lifestyle changes could prevent a third of dementia cases, a report suggests.

Researchers admit prevention estimate is a ‘best-case scenario’, but stress that action can be taken to reduce dementia risk

More than a third of dementia cases might be avoided by tackling aspects of lifestyle including education, exercise, blood pressure and hearing and a 2020 update to the report adds excessive alcohol consumption, traumatic brain injury, and air pollution as additional risk factors.

Approximately 45 million people worldwide were thought to be living with dementia in 2015, at an estimated cost of $818bn. And numbers are rising: in England and Wales it is estimated that 1.2 million people will be living with dementia by 2040 – a 57% increase from 2016 figures, largely driven by people living longer.

But the report from the Lancet Commission on dementia prevention, intervention and care, stresses that dementia is not an inescapable part of ageing – and that action can be taken to reduce risk.

“There are a lot of things that individuals can do, and there are a lot of things that public health and policy can do, to reduce the numbers of people developing dementia,” said Gill Livingston, professor of psychiatry of older people at University College London and a co-author of the report.

The number of older people, including those living with dementia, is rising, as younger age mortality declines. However, the age-specific incidence of dementia has fallen in many countries, probably because of improvements in education, nutrition, health care, and lifestyle changes. Overall, a growing body of evidence supports the nine potentially modifiable risk factors for dementia modelled by the 2017 Lancet Commission on dementia prevention, intervention, and care: less education, hypertension, hearing impairment, smoking, obesity, depression, physical inactivity, diabetes, and low social contact. The 2020 update now adds three more risk factors for dementia with newer, convincing evidence. These factors are excessive alcohol consumption, traumatic brain injury, and air pollution.

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