New International Report Offers Hope Against Alzheimer's
So can we do anything to stop Alzheimer’s? It turns out the answer is “Maybe yes!” That’s the verdict from the “World Alzheimer Report 2014 Dementia and Risk Reduction: An Analysis of Protective and Modifiable Factors.”
Not surprisingly, much of it is information we already have learned. However, there is a new bit of information that I found fascinating. Report author Dr. Martin Prince, who works in King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, stated, “There is already evidence from several studies that the incidence of dementia may be falling in high income countries, linked to improvements in education and cardiovascular health. We need to do all we can to accentuate these trends. With a global cost of over US$ 600 billion, the stakes could hardly be higher.”
Here are some of the report’s findings:
- What happens when matters. The researchers found the strongest evidence that the following factors may have causal associations with dementia: low levels of education in early life; hypertension in middle age; and smoking and having diabetes throughout your lifetime.
- Control other risk factors. Controlling hypertension, diabetes and cardiovascular risk factors can reduce the risk of dementia. In fact, the researchers’ calculations indicate that developing diabetes can increase a person’s risk of developing dementia by a whopping 50 percent.
- Don't use tobacco. Tobacco use increases the risk of developing dementia.
- Get moving and watch your weight. Efforts to increase physical activity and reduce levels of obesity should be encouraged.
- Education matters! Researchers found that education offers a consistently protective effect. Improvements in access to secondary (middle school and high school) and higher education may help reduce the incidence in dementia. In addition, several studies have provided consistent evidence that continuing to learn in later life may help lower the incidence of dementia. Researchers hypothesize that this may be because the brain develops neural pathways that enable it to still function while battling dementia pathologies.
- Researchers found that psychological factors may make a difference, depending on where you are in life. For instance, experiencing depression, sleep disorders, anxiety and psychological distress during middle age were found to have a direct association with developing dementia whereas in later life, only three – depression, sleep disorders and psychological distress – were linked in studies to developing dementia.
- Certain countries are seeing fewer citizens developing dementia. Some studies out of England, Spain, the United States, Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands suggest a reduction in the prevalence in dementia and cognitive impairment over time. Researchers note that this consistent pattern of a declining incidence of the onset of dementia means that people who develop dementia will increasingly do so at the end of their lives. However, the researchers warn that many low and middle-income countries are displaying increased risk factors such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke. For instance, studies out of China and other east Asian countries suggest an increase in the development of dementia among its citizens over the past two decades due to an increasing prevalence of stroke, cardiovascular disease, obesity and high blood pressure.
- Awareness matters. This report encourages nations to create and implement brain health awareness campaigns to that can be integrated into global and national public health programs in the way that other major non-communicable diseases currently are. The researchers encourage adopting a message that states it’s never too late to make changes that can protect the health of one’s brain. Furthermore, the study’s authors believe that older adults should be included in all efforts to improve the detection and treatment of diabetes and hypertension, as well as smoking cessation.
Perhaps one of the best messages from this report comes in one of the findings - “If we can all enter old age with better developed, healthier brains we are likely to live longer, happier and more independent lives with a much reduced chance of developing dementia.” That’s the mantra I’m going to tape to my refrigerator. I hope you will put this on your refrigerator, too!
Primary Sources for This Sharepost:
Alzheimer’s Disease International. (2014). Alzheimer’s report 2014 dementia and risk reduction – an analysis of protective and modifiable factors.
Alzheimer’s Disease International. (2014). World Alzheimer Report 2014 reveals persuasive evidence for dementia risk reduction.