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Study finds modifiable risk factors may have impact on dementia


Amanda Lyons


8/01/2019 1:47:35 PM

A large-scale research project analysing the global burden of dementia places strong emphasis on the importance of preventive healthcare.

Modifiable risk factors – including being overweight, high blood sugar, consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and smoking – may be major contributors to dementia.
Modifiable risk factors – including being overweight, high blood sugar, consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and smoking – may be major contributors to dementia.

As life expectancies increase and populations age, the prevalence of dementia has also increased – a current estimate numbers 40–50 million people living with the disease worldwide, more than double the 20.2 million in 1990.
 
Research led by the University of Melbourne and the University of Washington looking into the global, regional and national burden of Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias from 1990-2016 as part of the Global Burden of Disease Study has found significant potential for preventive measures in the management of dementia.
 
‘In our study, 22.3% of the total global disability-adjusted life years lost due to dementia in 2016 could be attributed to the four modifiable risk factors – being overweight, high blood sugar, consuming a lot of sugar-sweetened beverages and smoking,’ the authors stated.
 
Although University of Melbourne lead author Professor Cassandra Szoeke intends to explore an even great number of risk factors in new data collection, she believes the existing results provide strong guidance in the potential prevention and management of dementia.
 
‘Already the importance of these risks in allowing us to prevent or delay dementia is clear,’ she said.
 
The emphasis on prevention underscores the importance of the role of primary care and general practice in dementia care, as Professor Dimity Pond, Head of the Discipline of General Practice at the University of Newcastle, discussed with newsGP late last year.
 
‘Dementia is an increasingly prevalent condition, currently affecting over 400,000 Australians, and this is expected to rise to over one million by 2056,’ Professor Pond said.
 
‘GPs are on the frontline of healthcare presentations and will therefore play an increasingly important role in dementia identification and management.’
 
Professor Szoeke emphasised the need to act on the research findings in terms of health policy and resourcing.
 
‘We need to enhance the quality of life and function of people living with cognitive impairment and focus on preventing further cognitive decline,’ she said.
 
‘This will need a co-developed community-wide approach with well developed services and an even greater network of trained health professionals.’
 
Professor Szoeke is also keen to reiterate the vital importance of prevention in terms of improving outcomes for people with dementia.
 
‘Whilst we continue to work daily on new therapies to target disease, at home we really need to focus more on the health choices that we know extend both disease-free and disability-free survival,’ she said.



Alzheimer’s disease dementia medical research preventive care



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