Modifying 12 risk factors over the course of one’s life can delay or prevent 40 per cent of dementia cases, according to an update to The Lancet Commission on dementia prevention, intervention and care — which is being presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, to be held from July 27 to 31.
Dr Amit Dias, from the department of Preventive and Social Medicine at the Goa Medical College and one of the experts on the Lancet Commission, told The Indian Express that they have evidence to show that prevention of head injury, prevention of intake of excessive alcohol and lowering the exposure to air pollution can also help in preventing dementia.
Prof. Gill Livingston from the University College, London, was the lead author of the report, where 28 leading dementia experts provided an up-to-date analysis of the best evidence of prevention of dementia. “The 12 risk factors identified in the report are estimated to affect 40 percent of people with dementia,” said Dr Dias, adding, “This understanding can help us deal with the rising tide of dementia in India by focussing on preventive strategies”.
There are an estimated 4 million people with dementia in India. “What is worse is that due to stigma and lack of awareness, more than 90 per cent of the people with dementia in India do not even get a diagnosis and grapple with the condition in confusion… this adversely affects the life of the person with dementia as well as the caregivers,” said Dr Dias.
Across the world, 50 million people live with dementia, and the number is projected to increase to 152 million by 2050, rising particularly in low and middle-income countries where around two-thirds of people with dementia live, according to the Lancet Commission report.
Combined, the three new risk factors are associated with six per cent of all dementia cases – with an estimated three per cent of cases attributable to head injuries in mid-life , one percent of cases to excessive alcohol consumption (of more that 21 units per week) in mid-life and two per cent to exposure to air pollution in later life. The remaining risk factors are associated with 34 per cent of all dementia cases. The factors associated with the greatest proportion of dementia cases are less education in early life, hearing loss in mid life and smoking in later life, respectively.
Dementia is the umbrella term for a group of progressive, degenerative brain syndromes that result in memory loss, difficulty in thinking behaviour and emotion. It is not a normal part of ageing as it is often thought to be. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, said Dr Dias. He said even the possibility of delaying the onset of dementia by a few years can have a great impact on the quality of life and cost of care for the family.
There is a huge difference if someone develops dementia at the age of 60 as compared to the age of 80 years. “In low and middle-income countries, such as India, we have a significantly higher proportion of people living with the risk factors and therefore, the potential and impact of prevention strategies will be much higher,” he said
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