A recent study has found that one in three cases of dementia could be prevented through lifestyle choices. The study comes at a time when the disease is reaching epidemic proportions across the globe, with 47 million people now living with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
Learn more about the study – focused on preventing dementia through lifestyle changes – and the impact that our choices have on brain health and dementia risk.
Identifying Dementia Risk Factors
The new study conducted by the first Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention and Care and published in The Lancet, asked 24 international experts to review existing data from dementia research.
Professor Gill Livingston of University College London said, “Dementia is the greatest global challenge for health and social care in the 21st century… The purpose of the commission was therefore to address it [the dementia epidemic] by consolidating the huge strides and emerging knowledge as to what we should do to prevent dementia and intervene and care for people with dementia.”
Researchers found that the factors that impacted dementia risk were:
- Avoiding or treating hearing loss in mid-life
- Diabetes and obesity
- Getting an education (remaining in school after the age of 15)
- Getting physical exercise
- Not smoking
- Reducing depression and social isolation
- Reducing high blood pressure
With nearly 35% of dementia cases being attributable to these factors, removing them could theoretically prevent 1 in 3 cases of the disease.
Improving Care and Preventing Dementia
The authors of the study hope that their report will offer guidance for people looking to reduce the risk of dementia and improve care for people who are already living with the disease.
Lon Schneider, M.D., a professor of psychiatry and the behavioral sciences at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, presented the findings at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC).
He says their report includes “safe and effective social and health care interventions in order to integrate people with dementia within their communities.”
The study authors are careful to caution that changes in lifestyle may not delay or prevent dementia in all cases but that it may help some take practical steps to prevention.
“We hope that this report will feed into individual nations’ dementia policies and public health strategies, be used by individual clinicians to inform and improve their practice, and through media publicity inform the general public of what they can do to help avoid dementia, which is the most feared illness in old age.”
Do you think lifestyle changes can play a role in preventing dementia? Why or why not? We’d like to hear your stories in the comments below.