The World Dementia Council (WDC) has made dementia risk reduction 1 of their 5 priority areas of work.
On 29 January, the WDC issued a statement calling upon governments to adopt a risk reduction approach in public health policies and campaigns, and to increase investment for population-level research into dementia risk reduction.
Professor Perminder Sachdev, Co-Director of the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA) says that this statement from the WDC is promising.
“It aligns completely with our belief that dementia is at least partially preventable through strategies that will push back its onset. Dementia prevention is a major focus of research at CHeBA.”
With no cure for dementia currently in sight, the WDC considers dementia risk reduction to be a critical element of the global dementia agenda. It offers the only potential means of reducing the number of people getting dementia or slowing the progression and impact of the disease while the world awaits the crucial breakthrough therapy.
Following a review of the evidence on dementia risk reduction carried out by WDC member Harry Johns, Council members concluded that the evidence strongly suggests cognitive decline at the population level can potentially be affected by behaviour changes acting on cardiovascular risk factors.
Professor Henry Brodaty, Co-Director of CHeBA says evidence is accumulating that it’s possible to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, yet most Australians are unaware that there are steps they can now take to achieve this.
“These steps are simple lifestyle choices such as regular exercise, healthy diet, stimulating our brains and attending to our health such as stabilising blood pressure, limiting sugar intake and better managing our cholesterol. It’s never too late – or too early - to start such a program to improve not only our brain health but our overall health.”
A consensus already exists in some parts of the world that the evidence linking modifiable risk factors to dementia is sufficient to justify considered action and further research on dementia risk reduction, with the aim of delaying onset and reducing prevalence.
While the evidence base is building, more work needs to be done to better understand the particular relationships between individual risk factors and dementia risk, and to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions addressing modifiable risk factors in reducing the risk, progression and severity of dementia.
As well as leading several international consortia such as COSMIC and STROKOG examining modifiable risk factors for dementia across varied geographic and ethnic populations, CHeBA also runs a number of longitudinal studies including the Sydney Memory and Ageing Study, Sydney Centenarian Study and Older Australian Twins Study, with the objective of identifying modifiable risk factors for dementia and cognitive decline.