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NEWSLETTER

Making sense of current trends in dementia

Dementia medical data can be perplexing. Here's how to make sense of the latest findings.



It's sometimes hard to determine if we're winning or losing the dementia battle. Some headlines proclaim that dementia rates are on the decline, while others warn that the number of dementia cases is rapidly increasing. Here are two new study findings and what they mean in terms of danger.




Rates are falling.


According to a study headed by Harvard researchers and published online by Neurology on July 1, 2020, dementia incidence rates have been continuously dropping since the 1980s.

What is the cause of the decline? It could be linked to improved treatments for atherosclerosis (the development of harmful plaques in the arteries) over the last 40 years, as well as healthier lives. Treatment of high cholesterol and blood pressure at a younger age than in the past is encouraged, and we encourage people to adopt healthier lifestyles. And anything we do to lower atherosclerosis in the heart is likely to lower atherosclerosis in the brain as well.

Increasing Prevalence



Despite declining dementia rates in the United States and Europe, a new study published online by The Lancet Public Health on Jan. 6, 2022, predicted that the total number of people living with dementia will rise drastically around the world.

Scientists estimated the predicted prevalence of dementia in 195 countries and territories using expected trends in specific dementia risk factors such as age, obesity, high blood sugar, smoking, and education level (which also impacts the brain). They estimated that the number of individuals living with dementia aged 40 and up will nearly triple in the next three decades, particularly in African and Middle Eastern countries. This is due to the fact that there will be many more people on the planet, particularly those over the age of 40, as well as an increase in unhealthy living patterns (less exercise, poorer diets).




Which trend is correct?



On the one hand, dementia rates seem to be continuously decreasing. On the other hand, the global number of dementia cases is likely to explode. How can both be true at the same time? This is due to the fact that these are two distinct tendencies.

According to a Neurology study, dementia rates are decreasing. "An incidence rate is the number of new cases we expect per 100,000 people in the population each year." Our dementia incidence rate looks to be decreasing – fewer people per 100,000 appear to be developing dementia, hence the chance of developing dementia is decreasing. "

The study published in The Lancet Public Health did not assess dementia risk; rather, it calculated the overall number of dementia cases that would occur in a fast-growing population.

Two significant differences: the Neurology study was limited to the United States and Europe, but the Lancet Public Health study covered the entire globe. The Neurology study looked back, noting that rates had been falling, whereas the Lancet Public Health study looked ahead, forecasting instances that would occur in the future.




What does this imply for you personally?



Dementia is more likely to develop as people get older. Living a healthy lifestyle is the best way to lower that risk.

According to a Lancet Commission report published on August 8, 2020, if 12 modifiable risk factors were addressed, 40 per cent of dementia cases could be avoided or delayed:

Social isolation
High blood pressure
Blood pressure
I have a hearing impairment.
smoking
Obesity in middle age
air pollution.
A lack of physical activity
Excessive alcohol intake
diabetes
A head injury 
depression

If addressing all of those risk factors seems intimidating, keep in mind that recent research suggests that addressing even a few of them can help reduce dementia risk.


What you ought to do



Gradually transition to a healthier lifestyle. On a daily basis, choose at least one or two of the lifestyle elements below to focus on:

30 minutes of brisk walking
Learn a new skill, eat a healthy diet, and get at least seven hours of sleep every night.
Spend some time with a pal (in person or on the phone).
increase your equilibrium (to prevent falls and reduce head injury risk).
Stop smoking by engaging in some sort of meditation, such as yoga, tai chi, or mindfulness.
Work with your doctor to treat any underlying diseases that put you at risk for dementia, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, obesity, depression, and hearing loss. Even these last two are linked to dementia, believe it or not.






With better lifestyle management, we might be able to maintain the declining trend in dementia prevalence. I believe we will see a difference if more individuals get better at it.

The researchers looked at seven big, long-term studies that followed over 49,000 patients aged 65 and up in the US and Europe. According to the study, between 1988 and 2015, the rate of new cases fell by 13% every decade. According to the scientists, if current rates continue to fall, 15 million fewer people in the United States and Europe will have dementia by 2040 than would otherwise be projected.

Disclaimer:

No content on this site, regardless of date, should be used to replace direct medical advice from your doctor or another trained practitioner.
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