One-third of dementia cases worldwide could be prevented by lifestyle changes, according to a new report.
These are relatively simple and inexpensive measures compared with the potential challenges and costs of living with dementia.
Addressing nine lifestyle-related risk factors can collectively reduce the incidence of the brain disorder by 35 percent, the report said. These are:
- Increasing education
- Addressing hearing loss
- Addressing hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Addressing obesity
- Stopping smoking
- Treating depression
- Increasing exercise
- Increasing social contact
- Managing diabetes
The report is by the first Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention and Care. It was recently published in the medical journal The Lancet and presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference.
The commission comprised 24 experts who analyzed existing research so they could provide recommendations for preventing and treating dementia, whose causes include Alzheimer’s disease.
Commission member Dr. Lon Schneider, a professor of psychiatry and the behavioral sciences at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, says of the findings:
“There’s been a great deal of focus on developing medicines to prevent dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. But we can’t lose sight of the real major advances we’ve already made in treating dementia, including preventive approaches. … Mitigating risk factors provides us a powerful way to reduce the global burden of dementia.”
Some of the report’s recommendations echo measures we break down in “7 Free or Cheap Ways to Boost Your Brain Power.”
The high price of dementia
Worldwide, about 47 million people now have dementia, according to the commission’s report. By 2050, as many as 115 million people are expected to develop the symptoms.
Dementia is not a specific disease. The Mayo Clinic defines it as “a group of symptoms affecting memory, thinking and social abilities severely enough to interfere with daily functioning.” It generally involves memory loss, although having memory loss doesn’t necessarily mean you have dementia.
Among the multiple causes of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S.
Dementia can come at a high cost to your independence, your finances and your loved ones.
Half of nursing home residents have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC estimates that payments for health care, long-term care and hospice for people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia totaled $236 billion last year.
Additionally, an estimated 15.9 million Americans provided some 18 billion hours — or $221 billion worth — of unpaid care to family and friends with dementia in 2016.
To learn more about warding off dementia, check out:
- “Science Reveals How Poor Sleep Might Raise Your Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease”
- “How to Prevent Stress From Triggering Alzheimer’s”
- “This Type of Job Fights Off Alzheimer’s Disease”
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