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July 21st, 2017

New research is being published all the time about dementia, its causes and ways of preventing the disease.

A report out this week is of particular interest. It suggests more than a third of dementia cases might be avoided by tackling aspects of lifestyle including education, exercise, blood pressure and hearing.

With the number of people living with dementia rising – in England and Wales it is estimated this will be 1.2 million by 2040 – the report has huge implications.

The new report from the Lancet Commission on dementia prevention, intervention and care, stresses that dementia is not an inescapable part of ageing – and that action can be taken to reduce risk.

“There are a lot of things that individuals can do, and there are a lot of things that public health and policy can do, to reduce the numbers of people developing dementia,” said Gill Livingston, professor of psychiatry of older people at University College London and a co-author of the report.

For many of the factors, including exercise and social activities, the best approach to reducing dementia risk is not yet clear, but Prof Livingston said steps can still be taken.

The results reveal that as many as 35% of dementia cases could, at least in theory, be prevented, with 9% linked to midlife hearing loss, 8% to leaving education before secondary school, 5% to smoking in later life and 4% to later life depression. Social isolation, later life diabetes, midlife high blood pressure, midlife obesity and lack of exercise in later life also contributed to potentially avoidable cases of dementia, the report notes.

By contrast, 7% of cases would be prevented if a solution to the leading genetic risk factor for dementia were found.

This is great news. The startling increase in the numbers of people with dementia is largely driven by people living longer, which means the earlier we all start taking positive steps – stopping smoking, taking regular exercise and eating a healthy diet – the better.

And even when people do have dementia, there is so much that can be done to help mitigate the symptoms.

This blog was written by Kate Townsend, DoCare’s Field Manager.  If you have a relative who you think would benefit from DoCare’s services, or would like assistance yourself, please get in touch.  If you are interested in a rewarding career as a support worker, we would love to hear from you – please give us a call or you can apply online.