Dementia currently affects approximately 50 million people around the world. Figures are expected to rise to 75 million people by 2030 and 131.5 million by 2050.
There are 12 factors that can prevent 40 per cent of dementia cases, according to 28 leading experts, highlighted in a new report published recently in the Lancet.
All the factors are modifiable, meaning many people can significantly reduce their risk of dementia by making lifestyle changes.
3 New Risk Factors in a Growing List of Dementia Contributors
Experts have already established 9 risk factors which may impact whether or not we develop dementia in later life. These are:
- Less education
- Hearing impairments
- Physical inactivity
- Low levels of social interaction
and now the panel of experts have added air pollution, traumatic brain injuries and excessive alcohol consumption to the list.
Expert Opinions on the Lancet Report on Dementia
Professor Jennifer Rusted, Professor of Experimental Psychology at the University of Sussex, however, reminds us of the importance of our genetic predisposition to dementia. She had this to contribute to the report:
“The biggest known risk for late-life dementia is genetic — specifically carriers of the Apolipoprotein E epsilon 4 genotype have 4–12 fold increase in the likelihood of experiencing dementia in their lifetime.“
However, although Prof Rusted highlighted the need to account for the genetic element of dementia that some of us carry in our DNA, she then went on to comment that, in many cases, in staving off dementia, simple, every-day practical steps in reducing our risk by keeping physically and mentally active in old age is achievable.
Her statements were complemented by Professor Bart De Strooper, Director of the UK Dementia Research Institute. He added that lifestyle choices are as much a significant risk for Alzheimer’s disease as is genetic predisposition.
So what are we to take from all of this?
While genetic disposition plays a part in the development of dementia, there are those among us who develop the disease due to those high-risk factors.
In fact, as mentioned already, as many as 40% of all cases might actually be preventable through the correct management of our lifestyle choices, our diet and exercise levels, and the level of stress we are placed under over prolonged periods of time.
A Significant Percentage
If we refer back to the predicted numbers mentioned earlier in this article this would equate to reducing the number of cases by 30 million by 2030 and a whopping 52 million by 2050.
Positive Lifestyle Changes to Avoid Dementia
Professor Lon Schneider, study co-author, said that it is never too early or too late take action. The study’s authors provide the following recommendations for people to decrease their dementia risk:
- Avoid head injury.
- Maintain systolic blood pressure of 130 mm Hg or less from the age of 40.
- Make use of hearing aids if you suffer from hearing loss and reduce hearing loss by protecting ears from high noise levels.
- Reduce exposure to air pollution and second-hand tobacco smoke.
- Limit alcohol intake to no more than 21 units per week (this is around 12 standard drinks in the US and elsewhere).
- Give up smoking.
- Ensure all children have primary and secondary education.
- Lead an active life into mid-life and possibly later life.
- Reduce obesity and the linked condition of diabetes.
Might sound like a tall order for many people but is it when potentially facing a progressive brain disorder?
For years, we have known about the risk factors — poor diet, stress, high blood pressure, poor physical health, obesity. This is nothing new. We know that a Mediterranean diet has a positive impact on helping to prevent the onset of symptoms. We know that monitoring stress prevents the build-up of oxidative stress in the body, a key factor in the pathology of various types of dementia. Numerous studies have also shown that physical exercise can significantly reduce the risk of dementia by 30%.
The experts are providing the evidence and it’s reasonable to suggest that it takes reports exactly like this to make us sit up and pay attention.
As the next generation of potential dementia ‘diagnosees’ , the final word from the study co-author, Professor Lon Schneider:
“We are learning that tactics to avoid dementia begin early and continue throughout life, so it’s never too early or too late to take action.”