28 July 2017

‘The greatest global challenge for health and social care in the 21st century’

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It affects 47 million people globally.

And it’s not a natural part of ageing.

Dementia diagnosis is expected to treble over the next thirty years, and the strain on the nation’s and the world’s healthcare systems suggests that we might not have the resources in place to deal with such an increase.

But don’t be disheartened, there is something we can all do to improve global outlook for the impending Dementia crisis.

Professor Gill Livingstone of University College London recently led a team of researchers on an investigation into Dementia prevention, intervention, and care.

Results of their study show that roughly 35% of Dementia risk can be affected by lifestyle changes, meaning that we can all alter our individual risks for developing the disease.

Modifiable risk factors include:

  • Mid-life hearing loss - responsible for 9% of the risk
  • Failing to complete secondary education - 8%
  • Smoking - 5%
  • Failing to seek early treatment for depression - 4%
  • Physical inactivity - 3%
  • Social isolation - 2%
  • High blood pressure - 2%
  • Obesity - 1%
  • Type 2 diabetes - 1%

Source: BBC news

Each of these risk factors have one of three aims, highlighted in bold in the venn diagram below. These have been identified as ‘potential brain mechanisms for preventive strategies in dementia’. I.e. reducing inflammation around the brain can help to prevent Dementia.

Source: The Lancet DOI (10.1016/S0140-6736(17)31363-6)

 Arguably, the best thing you can do for both your physical and mental health, is regular exercise. Thought to release molecules that promote the growth and survival of brain cells, it can help to reduce brain inflammation, damage and increase the mind’s resilience.

Although by itself, exercise has not been shown to improve cognition in older adults.

Make a Positive Change

 The cognitive changes that lead to Dementia can start to happen years before symptoms and diagnosis occur. And set to become the biggest killer of the 21st century, it is irresponsible of us to not start taking preventative action against the disease.

You can make simple lifestyle changes, such as walking further to the supermarket from the car, reading a stimulating article instead of browsing social media feeds and reaching out to friends and family to decrease your risk.

And the best news is – these will have health benefits far beyond Dementia prevention!