Dementia is a growing problem around the world. Advancements in technology and medicine, mean that the population is living longer.
There are more older people than ever before. In fact, the UN predicts that by the population of those over the age of 60 is set to grow by 56 percent worldwide in the next 15 years.
And with the increasing ageing population there is also an increase of the complex health conditions that they may develop. The number one condition being dementia.
In Australia, there are more than 400,000 people with dementia, and the number of Australians with dementia is expected to increase to over 530,000 in less than 10 years.
Around the world, it’s estimated that 47 million people currently live with some form dementia, and it’s been predicted that that number will triple by 2050.
These estimations are based on a future where these is no medical interventions for dementia. But what if there were things we could do today that could prevent people from getting dementia?
Just like any other condition, prevention is better than cure. Finding ways to prevent it before it can cause symptoms or damage is the most reliable way to control the growth and spread of dementia.
A new research study, that was published in The Lancet medical journal, suggests that one in three cases of dementia could have been prevented by lifestyle changes.
A panel of 24 experts on dementia systematically reviewed studies about the condition. They were able to identify nine key factors to preventing brain decline.
- consistent education
- midlife hypertension
- midlife obesity
- hearing loss
- late life depression
- physical inactivity
- social isolation
According to the writers of the report, targeting these risk factors could “contribute to prevention or delay of dementia”.
By having factors clearly outlined from this research, it creates a new model of dementia risk – one that goes across the whole lifespan and not simply as a person gets older.
The authors calculated that addressing childhood education, managing hypertension, obesity, and hearing loss in midlife could reduce a person’s chances of developing dementia by nearly 20 per cent.
There are simple things that people can do to decrease dementia risk. Increasing the amount of exercise a person does along with a healthy balanced diet can help with blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and depression – thus covering five of the nine risk factors.
It should be noted, that in many cases even a delay in the onset of dementia can lead to prevention. By delaying dementia, even just by a few years, can have huge consequences for someone in their 80s or 90s.
For example, a person who is 95 years old, and whose dementia is delayed two years, may end up dying from unrelated causes and not have to go through extended ongoing symptoms related to dementia.
One of the most important things that this publication has revealed, along with many other past researches, is that individuals have some control over their health and future.