The risk of dementia drops for millions because the chance of developing the disease is now 13% lower than in 2010
Dementia in men decreases three times faster than in women, a large study shows.
Researchers at Harvard University found that the risk of developing the incurable condition has decreased by 13 percent every decade since 1988.
Rates for men have fallen by as much as 24 percent, while for women this is a more gradual drop (8 percent).
Previously, men were at a much higher risk than women for dementia, but the risk between sexes has now leveled out.
In 1995, the average European or American over-75 had a one in four chance of developing dementia. Today it is now less than one in five.
The researchers healthier lifestyles and fewer smokers could be behind the drop in risk, because poor blood circulation – which is hugely impacted by diet, exercise and drinking – has a significant impact on the brain.
But despite the risk of lowering the memory disorder, more and more people are being diagnosed with dementia.
This is because more and more people are born in the developed world and people are living longer than ever.
In the UK, an estimated 850,000 people live with dementia, while in the US, there are about 5 million. These figures are expected to triple by 2050.
But if the current drop in rates continues, Harvard researchers say that in the high-income countries, there could be 15 million fewer cases than expected.
Researchers at Harvard University found that the risk of developing the incurable condition has dropped by 13 percent every decade since 1988. In men, the percentage has fallen by as much as 24 percent, while in women it is a more gradual decrease (8 percent).
Dementia rates in the United States have declined in the past 25 years, with the risk that the disease is now 13 percent lower than in 2010, a study finds (stock image)
For the latest research, published in the journal Neurology, Harvard researchers reviewed data from seven large studies involving a total of 49,202 people.
The studies followed men and women over the age of 65 for at least 15 years, checking their health with personal exams, brain scans, and questionnaires.
Dr. Alberto Hofman, of Harvard, believes improved heart health and education are behind declining numbers
The data also includes a separate assessment of Alzheimer’s disease, a specific form of dementia that represents seven out of ten dementia cases.
Rates for Alzheimer’s disease also showed a similar drop, by about 16 percent per decade.
Dr. Albert Hofman, president of the Department of Epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health and lead author of the study, believes improved heart health and education are behind the declining numbers.
There is now a growing realization that poor blood circulation – which is greatly affected by diet, exercise and drinking – has a significant impact on blood vessels in the brain.
Education is now also known to have a protective effect, with those who receive better education more likely to continue doing complex thinking throughout their lives – reducing the risk of dementia by keeping the brain active.
Last week, a large study said that hundreds of thousands of people could ward off dementia by adopting a healthy lifestyle. About 40 percent of cases can be avoided or delayed, a comprehensive review of the evidence concludes.
Eating less, exercising more, and dropping alcohol and cigarettes significantly reduces the risk of developing dementia later in life, researchers said.
A team of 28 leading dementia experts who conducted the review for the medical journal Lancet identified 12 different controllable factors that contribute to dementia risk.
Dr. John Morris, director of the Center for Aging at Washington University in St. Louis, said The New York Times: ‘It is such a strong study and such a powerful message. It suggests that the risk is adaptable. ‘
Gill Livingston, of University College London in the UK, said the findings “again show that some of the dementias are already prevented by the changes that have taken place in these societies.”
She added, “We know that 40 percent of dementias worldwide can be preventable.
Sara Imarisio, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said The times newspaper there: ‘We know that there has been a radical decrease in the number of smokers for men in recent decades.
“While many people may have been persuaded to quit smoking because of an increased risk of cancer or heart disease, it is also a major risk factor for dementia.”
Earlier this month, an experimental blood test was very accurate to distinguish people with Alzheimer’s from people without the disease in several studies, which raised hopes that there could soon be an easy way to diagnose this most common form of dementia .
Developing such a test has been a long-sought goal, and scientists are warning that the new approach still needs to be validated and not yet ready for general use.
But the results suggest they are on the right track. The tests identified people with Alzheimer’s disease versus no dementia or other types with an accuracy ranging from 89 percent to 98 percent.
WHAT IS DEMENTIA? THE CURRENT DISEASE OVERFLOWING THE SUFFERING OF THEIR MEMORY
Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of neurological disorders
A GENERAL CARE
Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of progressive neurological disorders (affecting the brain) that affect memory, thinking and behavior.
There are many different types of dementia, of which Alzheimer’s disease is the most common.
Some people may have a combination of dementia types.
Regardless of the type of diagnosis, each person will experience their dementia in their own unique way.
Dementia is a global problem, but it is most often seen in wealthier countries, where people are likely to live into old age.
HOW MANY people are affected?
The Alzheimer’s Society reports that there are currently over 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK, more than 500,000 of whom have Alzheimer’s disease.
The number of people with dementia in the UK is estimated to increase to over 1 million by 2025.
In the US, it is estimated that there are 5.5 million Alzheimer’s patients. A comparable percentage increase is expected in the coming years.
As a person’s age increases, so does the risk of developing dementia.
Diagnosis rates improve, but many people with dementia are still undiagnosed.
IS THERE A TREATMENT?
Currently, dementia cannot be cured.
But new drugs can slow its progress, and the sooner it is noticed, the more effective treatments are.
Source: Alzheimer’s Society