Healthier lifestyles could lower rates of dementia
Is the Incidence of Dementia Declining?
A report released by Alzheimer’s Australia and the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA), Is the Incidence of Dementia Declining?, suggests that action on preventative health could lower the risk of dementia for future generations.
Professor Perminder Sachdev, author of the report and the newly appointed Chief Medical Adviser to Alzheimer’s Australia, said: “There is evidence from recent studies in Europe that the age-specific rates of dementia may be modifiable. It is possible that environmental and lifestyle factors, such as diet and exercise, could make a significant contribution to reducing the risk of developing dementia.
“A recent study in the UK in 2011 found that the expected prevalence of dementia in people aged 65 years and older was estimated to be 8.1 per cent but the actual prevalence was found to be 6.5 per cent – a decrease of about 20 per cent from what was expected.”
Alzheimer’s Australia’s National President, Ita Buttrose, said that the report highlights the importance of changing the way Australians think about dementia.
“The changes in the brain that lead to dementia begin up to 20 years before symptoms first appear. People of all ages can make simple lifestyle changes that may reduce their risk of dementia, such as increasing physical activity and controlling blood pressure and cholesterol,” Ms Buttrose said.
“We are fortunate in Australia to have the world’s first publicly-funded dementia risk reduction program, Your Brain Matters, delivered by Alzheimer’s Australia. But many Australians remain unaware of the connections between dementia and other major chronic diseases. Further work needs to be done to link dementia to the preventative health strategies for smoking and alcohol, and for chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
“The fact that our children and grandchildren may not have the same risk as we do of developing dementia should provide a basis for further Government investment in dementia-prevention strategies.”
The report also cautions that the total numbers of people with dementia will continue to rise, even with changes in age-specific prevalence, because of the increasing numbers of older people in Australia.
“It is critical that we continue our efforts to fight dementia and develop high quality care,” Ms Buttrose said.
“It can’t be assumed that the favourable factors leading to the decline in dementia prevalence in some countries will continue to apply, or that other factors such as the rising rates of obesity and diabetes will not have an adverse impact on the number of new cases of dementia.”