Published on: November 29, 2013
by Jo Willey for Express:
Dementia is striking people much later giving millions fresh hope of leading longer, healthier lives.
Experts said yesterday that the risk of dementia may also be falling thanks to better education and prevention of key risk factors such as high blood pressure and cholesterol.
Lead researcher Dr Kristine Yaffe, professor of psychiatry, neurology, epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California in San Francisco, said: “This is a fascinating example of personal health changes earlier in life having an impact on personal and public health in late life.”
Dr Yaffe and Dr Eric Larson, who is executive director of the Group Health Research Institute, reviewed several recent studies that show how rates of dementia in ageing populations have declined for people born later in the last century.
The article, published in The New England Journal Of Medicine, also cites other factors affecting this trend.
Dr Yaffe and Dr Larson have previously shown that regular exercise may help delay dementia.
In an article published earlier this year in the journal, Dr Larson’s team reported that people with lower blood sugar levels tend to have less risk of dementia.
And Dr Yaffe and her team have focused on a host of other lifestyle factors that have the potential to reduce risk.
Dr Yaffe said: “We need to be aware that recent increases in obesity and diabetes threaten to reverse these gains because of the impact these conditions can have on the ageing brain. The obesity and diabetes epidemics are not affecting age groups most at risk of dementia – yet.”
Dr Larson added: “People are tending to live longer, with worldwide populations ageing, so there are many new cases of dementia.
“But some seem to be developing it at later ages and we’re optimistic about this lengthening of the time that people can live without dementia.
“To help more avoid dementia, we’ll need to find better ways of preventing obesity and avoiding obesity-linked health risks including diabetes.
“We must focus on exercise, diet, education, treating hypertension and quitting smoking.” In 2008, Dr Larson reported one of the first studies suggesting a decline in US dementia rates, using information from the US Health and Retirement Study.
That found that the decline was in line with education, income, and improvements in health care and lifestyle. Since then, several studies in Europe have confirmed this trend are and lifestyle. Since then, several studies in Europe have confirmed this trend.
Dr Simon Ridley, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “We can’t say for sure what may have caused a fall in dementia rates but much evidence points to a role for better education and cardiovascular health in reducing the risk of the condition.
“It’s also important to remember that age is the biggest risk factor for dementia, and with an ageing population the condition affects hundreds of thousands of people in the UK.”
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