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Healthy living 'reduces dementia risk' for older people

08-Feb-16
Article By: Melissa McAlees, News Editor

According to new research, fewer people are developing dementia as they lead healthier and better educated lifestyles.

Researchers at Cambridge University found that the chances of over-65s developing the condition has fallen by 22 per cent over 20 years.

Research suggests that 'healthier behaviours' may help reduce dementia risk in later-born generations.

Professor Carol Brayne, lead researcher at the Cambridge Institute of Public Health, said: “Later-born populations have a lower risk of prevalent dementia than those born earlier in the past century.

“Such reductions could be the outcomes of earlier population-level investments, such as improved education and living conditions, and better prevention and treatment of vascular and chronic conditions.

“This evidence suggests that attention to optimum health early in life might benefit cognitive health late in life.”

Researchers studied dementia prevalence in three parts of England and compared it with results from a similar study two decades ago.

They found dementia affected 8.3 per cent of over-65s two decades ago, compared to 6.5 per cent living with the condition at present. This evidence suggests that attention to optimum health early in life might benefit cognitive health late in life.

Scientists believe medical progress and better education has also helped halt the progress of dementia.

Rates of smoking, a major risk factor, have more than halved since 1974, and the prevention and treatment of high blood pressure and cholesterol, which also increase the risk of dementia have improved.

Dr Matthew Norton, head of policy at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “Although the proportion of older people with dementia has not increased according to these studies, age is the biggest known risk factor for dementia and with an ageing population in the UK, current estimates show the overall number of people with dementia is still projected to rise.

“Encouragingly, this research suggests that healthier behaviours may have helped reduce dementia risk in later-born generations.

“Current trends in risk factors such as obesity and diabetes mean we should not be complacent, but measures to help people adopt healthy lifestyles now could have a real impact on the numbers of people living with dementia in the future.”

He added: “We still need greater public awareness of the risk factors for dementia, and policymakers as well as charities have a key role to play in improving people’s understanding of what they can do to potentially reduce their risk.

“The risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias are complex and not yet fully understood, but it’s likely that our risk is influenced by a mix of lifestyle and genetic factors.

“Currently there is no sure-fire way to prevent dementia, so it’s vital that we continue to invest in research into preventions, as well as better treatments and improved diagnosis for those cases that cannot be prevented.”

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