Healthier living can help cut dementia by a third, say experts

Healthier living can help cut dementia by a third, say experts

One in three cases of dementia might be prevented through the reduction of certain lifestyle-related risk factors, according to a report compiled by an worldwide team of 24 researchers and published today in the Lancet.

Hearing loss, failure to complete secondary education, smoking, ignoring and not treating early signs of depression, not exercising, social isolation and high blood pressure are other factors which could contribute to the decline of the mind.

"Although dementia is diagnosed in later life, the brain changes usually begin to develop years before", she noted.

"There's been a great deal of focus on developing medicines to prevent dementia, including Alzheimer's disease", commission member Lon Schneider, M.D., a professor of psychiatry and the behavioral sciences at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, said in a statement. Reducing mid-life hearing loss might make the biggest difference.

"Nonetheless, delaying dementia for some years for even a small percentage of people would be an enormous achievement and would enable many more people to reach the end of life without developing dementia".

Carrillo is one of the many experts at the 2017 Alzheimer's Association International Conference in London, where researchers from around the world are meeting in hopes of finding a cure or treatment for the disease.

Taking care of these risk factors would possibly prevent 35 percent of dementia cases, the study findings suggested.

However, Professor Gill Livingston, MD, from the University College London and lead author of The Lancet Commission warns that not all cases are preventable.

Eliminating smoking would cut the number of new diagnoses by 11,000 a year in the United Kingdom, while addressing hearing loss problems properly in middle age could reduce it by a further 20,000. It is estimated to affect about 47 million around the world and expected to affect almost thrice of the current sufferers, or 131 million, by 2050.

Hearing loss may have a similar negative effect on cognitive reserves. It's particularly important to stop smoking later in life, they say, to reduce neurotoxins and improve heart health, which in turn improves brain health. Yet, whether hearing aids work against the cognitive damage caused earlier is not clear.

Whilst in later life, treating depression, stopping smoking, managing diabetes, increasing physical activity and increasing social interactions could reduce the incidence of dementia by a further 15 per cent.

More research is needed to clarify exactly why and how each of these factors impacts a person's dementia risk, the researchers said.

The researchers said they did not have enough data to determine how diet and alcohol factor into the risk of dementia, although they believe both are important.

Firstly how risk factors like education, obesity and depression apply not just at a population level, but to individual people who all have their own unique genetic risk profiles, and secondly how people can be motivated in mid to late life to change their behaviour and adopt healthier lifestyle choices.

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