In a recent project, carried out in partnership with the Dementia Collaborative Research Centres, I asked General Practitioners and Registered Nurses working in General Practice (primary practice) what they thought would be a useful practical way to increase the utilisation of current evidence available in relation to dementia risk reduction. The focus groups for this project were carried out in three States of Australia. Overwhelmingly, there was enthusiasm for ensuring that the wider community was aware that reducing your risk of dementia was an outcome of a healthier lifestyle, along with the more well-known messages that lifestyle changes reduce the risk of stroke or diabetes.
I am on a campaign to be fitter, and to reduce my weight to a healthier range. I've nearing 50 and it is an important time to look at the impact of our lifestyle choices and decide if we need to make some changes. I've put on 0.8kgs this week, without even noticing it. That's a trend that I can't continue, so back to a more targeted nutritional program this week.
Participating in risk reduction activities earlier in life, can make a difference to your individual risk of developing dementia, and contribute to reducing the prevalence of dementia globally. Looking at rates of new dementia diagnoses, modelling for lifestyle changes, showed that even if we could delay the onset of dementia by 5 years, the number of people newly diagnosed with dementia would be halved by 2050.
Many people aren’t aware that improved physical fitness, mental health and social well-being (keeping up with your friends) helps to reduce your dementia risk. You may be familiar with messages about reducing smoking, poor nutrition, alcohol use, physical inactivity and obesity, as important for keeping ‘heart healthy'. It's encouraging to know that making these changes will also help to keep you ‘cognitively healthy’.
I’ve listed below some of the key changes that you can make to help reduce your risk of dementia. If you would like to get more information you can check out the Alzheimer’s Australia website.
Dementia Risk Reduction Recommendations
The Alzheimer’s Australia website has information summarising current research on risk factors associated with dementia which can be managed through lifestyle changes or appropriate medical treatments. A summary is provided here, but for more information contact your GP or Alzheimer’s Australia.
Cardiovascular Risk Factors
Brain infarcts, heart disease and mid-life hypertension increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and Vascular dementia.
Careful management of diabetes to maintain blood glucose levels within a health range may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease
High cholesterol in mid-life and late-life can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Non-pharmacological interventions and/or medication can be used to help lower cholesterol to reduce risk.
High homocysteine levels
Adequate intake of vitamin B and folate can help reduce homocysteine levels.
Moderate to severe head injuries may increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. This risk could be further increased if the head injury resulted in loss of consciousness.
Wearing appropriate headgear to avoid head injuries may reduce your risk of developing dementia.
Access Economics. Delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease: projections and issues. Alzheimer’s Australia, Canberra; 2004.
Martin-Khan, M., E. Beattie, M. Farrow, D. Lie, G. Mitchell, D. Pond, F. Schaper, and A. Shell, Guidance from General Practice on Dementia Prevention Knowledge Translation Priorities. Australian Journal of Dementia Care, 2016. 5(5): p. 45-46.