A recent report by Lancet Commission indicates that taking action against certain lifestyle risk factors at an early age can reduce the risk of developing dementia later in life to a large extent
Like most chronic diseases or syndromes, dementia can be very debilitating and disabling. Because dementia leads to deterioration in memory, cognitive function and the ability to perform regular daily activities, its effects are felt deeply and leave a huge impact on patients and their loved ones.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) says that while dementia usually affects older people, it’s not a normal part of ageing. With 5 crore people suffering from dementia — and about 1 crore new cases every year — this disease has been the focus of many scientists and researchers from all over the world.
Lifestyle risk factors of dementia
A recent report by the Lancet Commission dedicated to dementia prevention, intervention and care indicates that taking action against the disease at an earlier age can reduce the risk of it developing later in life to a large extent. The report, which was presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2020, says that modifying 12 risk factors throughout your life can prevent 40 percent of dementia cases.
The following are the 12 lifestyle-related risk factors that you need to work on now to prevent the chances of dementia:
- Take precautions against developing high blood pressure or hypertension, and ensure that you maintain a systolic BP of 130 mmHg or less, starting from the age of 40 years.
- Prevent hearing damage and loss by preventing extended exposure to noise. Use proper hearing aids if you have hearing problems.
- Reduce exposure to air pollution including secondhand smoke.
- Prevent head injuries and traumas.
- Limit alcohol use. Alcohol abuse is clearly linked to an increased risk of dementia.
- Avoid smoking. Quitting this habit is the best thing you can do not only to prevent dementia but also other health conditions.
- Ensure early-life education for all children. This means providing children with primary and secondary education.
- Control your weight and reduce obesity. Ensure that you are physically active in midlife and beyond as well.
- Maintain healthy sleep habits and address sleep hygiene issues early on.
- Take sufficient precautions against diabetes and keep your blood glucose in check.
- Be social and avoid social isolation at any age.
- Focus on your mental health to keep depression, anxiety and mood disorders at bay.
Air pollution, negative thinking and dementia
While the Lancet Commission report underlined the link between air pollution and dementia, a study published in JAMA Neurology in March 2020 might be credited for establishing this link for the first time. This study examined the link between long-term exposure to air pollution and dementia among 3,000 adults in Sweden. It found that increased exposure to air pollution increases the risks of cardiovascular diseases and strokes, which in turn increases the chances of dementia in later life.
Another study published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia in June 2020 bolstered the link between depression and dementia. The researchers behind this study found that repetitive negative thinking (which is usually associated with depression and anxiety) is linked to cognitive decline, which can subsequently cause dementia.
Breakthrough: Dementia therapy might reverse memory loss
While new research is throwing better light on how dementia can occur, and what one can do to decrease its risks, two scientists at Macquarie University’s Dementia Research Centre, Australia, have made a recent breakthrough in how to treat dementia in those who already have the disease. The study was done on mice with advanced dementia, and the researchers found that activating p38 gamma, a naturally protective enzyme in the brain, can prevent the effects of memory loss.
Using this activation therapy, the researchers claim that memory loss in dementia patients can not only be stopped but also reversed. While the findings of this research will be published in Acta Neuropathologica in September 2020, clinical trials are already on the horizon and may provide a pathbreaking method of treating dementia.
For more information, read our article on Dementia.
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