About 35 percent of cases could be prevented dementia if people follow nine lifestyle changes throughout their lives, according to the biggest ever study by Lancet Commission.
There are about 47 million people worldwide who suffer from dementia. That number is expected to climb to 131 million by 2050.
The study brought together 24 international aging experts to analyze hundreds of existing research papers and provide evidence-based recommendations for treating and preventing brain diseases. At the end, the life-plan they come up with can dramatically cut the chance of developing brain diseases like Alzheimer’s.
the report also highlights the beneficial effects of nonpharmacologic interventions such as social contact and exercise for people with brain damage.
“There’s been a great deal of focus on developing medicines to prevent dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease,” says Lon Schneider, MD, professor of psychiatry and the behavioral sciences at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. “But we can’t lose sight of the real major advances we’ve already made in treating dementia, including preventive approaches.”
Reducing risk beginning in childhood
The modifiable which are thought to be risk factors add up to 35%. The other 65% of risk is beyond people’s control.
Lead author Prof Gill Livingston, from University College London, said: “Although dementia is diagnosed in later life, the brain changes usually begin to develop years before. Acting now will vastly improve life for people with dementia and their families and, in doing so, will transform the future of society.”
The commission’s report identifies nine risk factors in early, mid- and late life that increases the risk of developing dementia.
You can reduce as much as 20 percent risk of dementia by increasing education in early life, addressing hearing loss, hypertension, and obesity in midlife.
Another 15 percent reduces the risk of dementia comes in late life by stop smoking, treating depression, increasing physical activity, increasing social contact and managing diabetes.
“The potential magnitude of the effect on dementia of reducing these risk factors is larger than we could ever imagine the effect that current, experimental medications could have,” professor Schneider says. “Mitigating risk factors provides us a powerful way to reduce the global burden of dementia.”
The factors contribute to the risk of Brain damage
- mid-life hearing loss – 9%. Hearing loss can deny people a cognitively rich environment and lead to social isolation and depression, which are among other modifiable risk factors.
- failing to complete secondary education in early life – 8%. However, people who continue to learn throughout life are likely to build additional brain’s networks. That way the brain can continue to function in later life despite the damage caused in early life.
- smoking – 5%
- depression – 4%
- physical inactivity – 3%
- social isolation – 2%
- high blood pressure – 2%
- hypertension and obesity in midlife – 1%
- type 2 diabetes – 1%
Source: Lancet Commission on dementia prevention, intervention, and care