There is hope in the fight against dementia.
Techniques such as following a good diet, learning new things, quitting smoking, and tackling loneliness could help prevent one-third of dementia cases, a panel of health experts suggested Thursday, July 20, in a new analysis.
Presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2017 in London, the report focused on addressing lifestyle factors in the battle against dementia, which is marked by a decline in memory, thinking, and other abilities needed to perform daily activities.
“Today’s findings are extremely hopeful,” said Dr. Maria Carrillo, chief science officer at the Alzheimer’s Association, in a statement.
Analyzing the risk factors behind dementia, the team of 24 international researchers commissioned by The Lancet emphasized key lifestyle recommendations. These include staying in school beyond age 15 and managing high blood pressure, obesity, as well as hearing loss during midlife.
Not finishing secondary education, for instance, is deemed as a way that people become less resilient to cognitive decline as they get older. Quitting cigarettes is also considered a way to improve heart health and brain wellness in turn.
The team also recommended reducing smoking, physical inactivity, depression, social isolation, and diabetes in later years.
Dementia is diagnosed in one’s later years, but brain changes already typically start to develop years ahead, warned University College London professor Gill Livingston. Adopting a broader approach to preventing the disease will “benefit our aging societies” and help prevent rising incidence worldwide, he added.
Dementia And The Future
Dementia is rooted in brain disorders, most common of which is Alzheimer’s disease. It is estimated to affect about 47 million around the world and expected to affect nearly thrice of the current sufferers, or 131 million, by 2050.
At the London conference, U.S. researchers unveiled plans to launch an ambitious clinical trial to test how a strategy seen to improve cognitive aging in a group of Finns with elevated dementia risk could potentially work in Americans.
The $20 million study is funded by the Alzheimer’s Association and poised to start recruiting subjects next year.
Just this week, researchers revealed that loss of certain speech abilities as well as hearing could be early signs of Alzheimer’s. They found that using fillers like “um” and “ah” and shorter sentences may reflect not just less fluency, but also very mild memory and thinking problems.
While not everyone with mild memory issues goes on to develop dementia, the speech changes are deemed a potential way to identify people who will go on to develop the condition later on.