As of right now, dementia is one of the top 10 leading causes of death worldwide. It currently stands at 7th place, but scientists have determined in a new study that the disease will probably rise further up this rather grisly ladder in the coming 30 years.
The researchers expect the number of cases to grow threefold by 2050. Luckily they mentioned some preventive measures that could reverse this worrisome trend.
In their peer-reviewed study (published in the science journal Lancet Public Health), the scientists estimate that over 150 million people will be living with dementia at the midpoint of the 21st century.
The above-mentioned increase is expected to be seen in practically every country around the globe, with the most significant predicted increase in Middle Eastern and North African countries.
The researchers examined several dementia risk factors, namely obesity, low education, high blood sugar, and smoking, focusing on their impact on future trends.
Improvements in global education access are expected to reduce dementia prevalence by 6.2 million cases by 2050. However, predicted trends in obesity, high blood sugar, and smoking will result in an extra 6.8 million dementia cases.
Demographics of dementia
Although dementia mainly affects the elderly, it is not an inevitable consequence of old age. For example, a previous study suggested that 40 percent of dementia cases could have been prevented or delayed if 12 known risk factors had been better addressed.
These include low education, high blood pressure, hearing impairment, smoking, middle-aged obesity, depression, physical inactivity, diabetes, social isolation, excessive alcohol consumption, head injury, and air pollution.
Women are more likely to develop dementia.
Research shows that women are, in general, more likely to develop dementia than men. This will most likely also be the case in 2050.
According to co-author Dr. Jamie Steinmetz, this isn't just the case because women are more likely to live longer. There is also evidence of gender differences in the biological mechanisms underlying dementia. It seems that Alzheimer's disease spreads differently in women's brains than in men.
How can we prevent the rise of dementia?
According to the researchers, there is a pressing need to deploy customized local interventions to mitigate the exposure to dementia risk factors for citizens.
In addition, it is advised to invest resources into research to find potential effective treatments and new modifiable risk factors to reduce the future burden of disease.
According to Emma Nichols, from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, one of the authors of the study, their research presents enhanced predictions for dementia on a global scale in addition to the country-level, supplying public health experts and policymakers with additional insights to comprehend the drivers of the predicted rise of dementia.
Nichols points out that we need to concentrate more on control of risk factors and general prevention. 'Even modest advances in preventing dementia or delaying its progression would pay remarkable dividends'
To ensure we get the most out of our efforts, Nichols' advice is to reduce the main dementia risk factors in each separate nation. In the majority of countries, this would mean expanding locally relevant, low-cost programs that assist citizens with finding healthier diets, support them with increasing their exercise regimen, help them quit smoking and, last but not least, give them improved access to education.
Things you can do right now
There are many things you can personally do right now that may reduce your individual risk for dementia, like getting a healthier diet, exercising more frequently (don't remain inactive for extended periods of time), keeping your brain lively by playing games, reducing your alcohol intake, trying to get a healthy amount of sleep, and maintaining good oral health.
Take care of yourself!
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