A new report has found that one-third of dementia cases could be prevented if more people adopted a healthier lifestyle.
Published in the journal The Lancet, researchers found that public health strategies that helped people to be healthy, such as staying in school past age 15, protecting hearing in mid-life and keeping up with exercise in old age, all could help decrease the global numbers of dementia cases.
Co-author of the study, Dr Lon Schneiger is a professor of psychiatry, neurology and gerontology at the University of Southern California. Dr Schneigner says that prevention of dementia needs to be thought about as a society, across a spectrum of age groups. “Society must engage in ways to reduce dementia risk throughout life and improve the care and treatment for those with the disease,” he said. “This includes providing safe and effective social and healthcare interventions in order to integrate people with dementia within their communities.”
In the study, researchers examined risk factors for dementia such as health, physical activity levels and levels of education. They then calculated and modelled the potential impact that reducing many different risk factors would have on the global prevalence of dementia.
They found that targeting nine risk factors could slash the worldwide number of dementia cases by 35 per cent. These included public health initiatives such as treating hearing loss, keeping children in school past age 15, targeting obesity and high blood pressure in midlife as well as addressing depression, physical inactivity and social isolation in people older than 65.
Dementia currently affects more that 350, 000 Australians and 40, 000 New Zealanders. These numbers are set to increase, and without a medical breakthrough, the number of Australians living with dementia could be almost as high as 900,000 by 2020, and 146,000 New Zealanders by 2050.