Dementia rates across the western world have fallen over the past 25 years, with the risk of developing the disease now 13 per cent lower than 2010, a study has found.
Researchers at Harvard university announced their findings Tuesday in the journal Neurology after looking at the health of 50,000 people.
In a statement of their findings the scientists wrote: ‘The incidence rate of dementia in Europe and North America has declined by 13% per decade over the past 25 years, consistently across studies. Incidence is similar for men and women, although declines were somewhat more profound in men.’
It means that millions of people across America and Europe will now not develop the condition. The study shows that in 1995 the average 75-year-old American had a one in four chance of getting dementia; today they have a one in five.
Dementia rates across the United States have fallen over the past 25 years, with the risk of developing the disease now 13 per cent lower than 2010, a study has found (stock image)
Healthier lifestyles leading to lower rates of cardiovascular risks may be part of the reason behind the falling rates but scientists say they are not entirely sure why.
Alberto Hofman, of Harvard, said: ‘My two suggestions are cardiovascular risk factor changes, or educational changes.’
Dr Hofman added: ‘One of the messages of this is that there is no need for fatalism, for this talk of grey waves of dementia.’
Last week a major study said hundreds of thousands of people could ward off dementia by adopting a healthy lifestyle. Some 40 per cent of cases could be avoided or delayed, a comprehensive review of the evidence concludes.
Eating less, exercising more, and cutting out alcohol and cigarettes significantly reduce the risk of developing dementia in later life, researchers said.
A team of 28 world-leading dementia experts, who conducted the review for the Lancet medical journal, identified 12 different controllable factors which contribute to dementia risk.
Dr. John Morris, director of the Center for Aging at Washington University in St. Louis, told The New York Times: ‘It is such a strong study and such a powerful message. It suggests that the risk is modifiable.’
Gill Livingston, from University College London in the UK, said the findings ‘show again that some of dementia is already being prevented with the changes which have taken place in these societies’.
She added: ‘We know that worldwide 40 per cent of dementias are potentially preventable.
Alberto Hofman, of Harvard helped carry out the study
Sara Imarisio, research head at Alzheimer’s Research UK, told The Times newspaper there: ‘We know recent decades have seen a radical decline in smoking rates for men.
‘While many people may have been persuaded to stop smoking due to an increased risk of cancer or heart disease, it is also a key risk factor for dementia.’
Earlier this month an experimental blood test was highly accurate at distinguishing people with Alzheimer’s disease from those without it in several studies, boosting hopes that there soon may be a simple way to help diagnose this most common form of dementia.
Developing such a test has been a long-sought goal, and scientists warn that the new approach still needs more validation and is not yet ready for wide use.
But the results suggest they’re on the right track. The testing identified people with Alzheimer’s vs. no dementia or other types of it with accuracy ranging from 89 per cent to 98 per cent.
WHAT IS DEMENTIA? THE KILLER DISEASE THAT ROBS SUFFERERS OF THEIR MEMORIES
Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of neurological disorders
A GLOBAL CONCERN
Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of progressive neurological disorders (those affecting the brain) which impact memory, thinking and behaviour.
There are many different types of dementia, of which Alzheimer’s disease is the most common.
Some people may have a combination of types of dementia.
Regardless of which type is diagnosed, each person will experience their dementia in their own unique way.
Dementia is a global concern but it is most often seen in wealthier countries, where people are likely to live into very old age.
HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE AFFECTED?
The Alzheimer’s Society reports there are more than 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK today, of which more than 500,000 have Alzheimer’s.
It is estimated that the number of people living with dementia in the UK by 2025 will rise to over 1 million.
In the US, it’s estimated there are 5.5 million Alzheimer’s sufferers. A similar percentage rise is expected in the coming years.
As a person’s age increases, so does the risk of them developing dementia.
Rates of diagnosis are improving but many people with dementia are thought to still be undiagnosed.
IS THERE A CURE?
Currently there is no cure for dementia.
But new drugs can slow down its progression and the earlier it is spotted the more effective treatments are.
Source: Alzheimer’s Society