The less healthy your lifestyle, the more you are at risk of developing dementia in later life, a new systematic review has shown. Researchers analysed the results of 18 studies with over 44,000 participants | BMJ Open | via National Institute for Health research
Having two or more ‘modifiable risk factors’, including smoking, high blood pressure, poor diet, inactivity, obesity and excessive alcohol consumption, puts adults at greater risk of developing dementia.
The included studies followed up people without signs of cognitive decline to see who developed dementia of any cause.
A third of the studies could be combined in a meta analysis and these showed a 20% increase in the risk of dementia for one risk factor, which rose to 65% for two risk factors. The presence of three risk factors doubled the risk of dementia.
There was also a reduction in risk conveyed by having fewer risk factors and this, despite any direct evidence from intervention trials, holds out hope that interventions which either reduce or remove risk will lead to a reduction in the incidence of dementia diagnoses.
These results are consistent with our growing knowledge of the links between unhealthy lifestyles and dementia and are highly relevant to the promotion of healthy ageing behaviours in mid-life and beyond, providing a compelling call to action in terms of public health and ageing.
The risk of developing dementia is falling, thanks to lifestyle improvements such as reductions in smoking, new research has found. Researchers have said that while the overall number of cases is rising due to the population living longer, an individual’s chances of having the disease is going down | Alzheimers Research UK
International experts have presented research indicating that dementia incidence rates may be falling by up to 15% decade on decade. Analysing data from seven population-based studies in the United States and Europe, Prof Hofman and a global team of researchers set out to determine changes in the incidence of dementia between 1988 and 2015.
Of 59,230 individuals included in the research, 5,133 developed dementia. The rate of new dementia cases declined by 15% per decade, a finding that was consistent across the different studies included in the analysis.
The findings will be discussed at the Alzheimer’s Research UK Conference 2019 in Harrogate.
In This video, lead author Albert Hofman, discusses trends in dementia incidence over the last three decades at the Alzheimer’s Research UK Conference 2019. Prof. Hofman goes on to explain the reasoning behind these trends.
Marriage may help stave off dementia, study finds | Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery & Psychiatry
Researchers combining the results of 15 studies including data on more than 800,000 participants have found that lifelong singletons and widowers appear to have a heightened risk of developing dementia.
Analysis of the data showed that lifelong singletons were 42% more likely to develop dementia than those who were married, and widowers were 20% more likely to develop the condition. Part of this risk might be explained by poorer physical health among lifelong single people, suggest the researchers. Marriage may help both partners to have healthier lifestyles, including exercising more, eating a healthy diet, and smoking and drinking less, all of which have been associated with lower risk of dementia. Couples may also have more opportunities for social engagement than single people – a factor that has been linked to better health and lower dementia risk, the researchers suggest.
Allan, C.L. et al. (2016) Evidence Based Mental Health. 19. pp.110-113
Most people with mild dementia can continue to drive, but dementia is progressive and many patients and clinicians will be faced with questions about driving safety in the course of their illness. Determining when this happens is a complex decision, with risks of personal and public safety needing to be weighed against individual patient benefits of driving in terms of autonomy, independence and well-being. Decisions need to make reference to cognitive abilities, as well as other factors including physical comorbidity, vision, mobility, insight and history of driving errors and accidents. Deciding to stop driving, or being required to stop driving is often difficult for patients to accept and can be a particularly problematic consequence of a dementia diagnosis. Legal frameworks help in decision-making but may not provide sufficient detail to advise individual patients. We review the current guidelines and evidence relating to driving and dementia to help clinicians answer questions about driving safety and to consider the full range of assessment tools available.
This quality standard covers interventions to maintain and improve the mental wellbeing and independence of people aged 65 or older, and how to identify those at risk of a decline. It describes high-quality care in priority areas for improvement. It does not cover the mental wellbeing and independence of people who live in a care home or attend one on a day-only basis.
Just 2% of people in Britain can identify all the health and lifestyle factors that can increase risk of developing dementia. | Public Health England
More than a quarter (28%) of the British public is unable to correctly identify any potentially modifiable risk factor for developing dementia, according to new findings from the British Social Attitudes survey, which was commissioned by Public Health England (PHE).
The survey, carried out by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen), asked the public if they could identify any of the following risk factors: heavy drinking, smoking, high blood pressure, depression and diabetes as well as the protective factor of taking regular exercise and found just 2% of the public is able to identify all of them.
Also, more than 1 in 4 people (27%) in Britain incorrectly believe that there is nothing anyone can do to reduce their risks of getting dementia. There is growing evidence that a third of dementia cases could be a result of factors potentially in our control, and actions like taking regular exercise and not smoking can reduce your risk of developing it. This means there is huge potential for prevention.
Alzheimer’s Society.Published online: 25 July 2016
Research at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2016 in Toronto, finds that certain genes and lifestyle factors can increase resilience against the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
These resilience factors may differ between men and women and may counteract the negative effects of a poor diet on cognition.
Factors such as the number of years spent in education, having a complex job and regularly doing activities that challenge the brain can contribute to resilience by helping to build up a ‘cognitive reserve’. Cognitive reserve is the ability of the brain to withstand certain levels of damage without any loss of function.