Preventing dementia - is it possible?

Dementia affects 50 million people across the globe and is one of the most significant health issues of the 21st century.

As with any health condition, we all know that it’s better to think about prevention rather than cure.

While there is no cure for dementia at present, there is evidence that we can reduce our risk of developing dementia.

The increasing prevalence of dementia is very related to the increasing age of our population; however, research indicates that there are things we can all do that have the potential to prevent dementia from developing, or at least delay its onset.

In fact, about one third of the cases of Alzheimer’s disease may be preventable if we pay attention to a range of risk factors from middle age onwards.

Researchers have been looking at the risk factors for dementia for decades.

Studies have looked at risk factors close to the time when symptoms of dementia start to reveal themselves and across the lifespan.

From this research, seven key risk factors have been identified including low educational attainment, midlife hypertension, depression, diabetes and smoking.

Hearing loss and social isolation are also potential modifiable risk factors.

If you put all the risk factors together and try to understand how they operate in a population, you can calculate what proportion of dementia might be attributed to those risk factors, and studies suggest it is around one third of cases.

The World Dementia Council has stated that “the public should know what the science concludes – certain healthy behaviours known to be effective for diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer are also good for brain health and for reducing the risk of cognitive decline”.

The Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre has launched The ISLAND Project to educate the Tasmanian population about these risks and what they can do to reduce their personal risk of this condition.

To learn more about dementia risk and the Tasmanian study, visit https://islandproject.utas.edu.au/
 

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