On 17 September, Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) released its annual World Alzheimer Report, this year on the topic of “Dementia and Risk Reduction: An analysis of protective and modifiable factors”.
With predictions of a coming global avalanche of dementia cases, researchers are turning their attention to prevention strategies. Based on current data, at least four lifestyle factors robustly affect dementia risk, according to the World Alzheimer Report 2014.
Researchers led by Martin Prince at King’s College London analyzed previous studies that examined the effects of developmental, psychological, lifestyle, and cardiovascular factors on dementia risk. They found that diabetes heightened risk by 50 percent, while smoking increased the odds of Alzheimer’s disease by the same amount. Hypertension in midlife pumped up the risk for vascular dementia by 60 percent, while education lowered dementia risk by about 40 percent. Factors such as depression and obesity also appeared to inflate risk, while physical activity and cognitive stimulation seemed to lower it, but existing data are not strong enough to draw firm conclusions about those factors, the report noted.
The findings belie the report from a 2010 National Institutes of Health State-of-the-Science panel, which concluded that insufficient evidence existed to endorse any health intervention for lowering Alzheimer’s risk. The World Alzheimer Report argues that, “There is persuasive evidence that the dementia risk for populations can be modified through reduction in tobacco use and better control and detection for hypertension and diabetes, as well as cardiovascular risk factors.”
The findings add to a growing body of evidence suggesting that improving heart health and maintaining an active lifestyle and sensible diet wards off dementia.
Researchers attribute recent drops in dementia incidence in developed countries to higher education levels and better cardiovascular care.