Quitting smoking, losing weight and reducing our heart disease and diabetes risk all give us a better chance of growing old without suffering from dementia, a global study has said.
Nearly 70 million people will be living with dementia around the world within the next five to six years, but too few are aware that there are things we can do to reduce our risk, the World Alzheimer's Report 2014 said.
The report, commissioned by Alzheimer’s Disease International, said public health drives to lower smoking rates and obesity, primarily aimed at improving heart health and preventing diabetes, should also be viewed as dementia prevention strategies.
There is growing evidence of dementia’s links to physical health, and such measures could be effective at fending off dementia even in later life, the report said.
Diabetes can increase a person’s risk of dementia by 50 per cent, while obesity and a lack of physical activity lead to high blood pressure, which has also been linked to many cases of dementia.
However, survey data compiled by Bupa found that only a quarter of people realised being overweight carried a heightened dementia risk, and only one in five knew that healthy levels of physical activity could reduce a person’s chance of developing the disease.
Marc Wortmann, executive director of Alzheimer’s Disease International, said it was important for people to understand that risk factors for dementia “overlap” with those of other major non-communicable diseases.
George McNamara, head of policy at the UK’s Alzheimer’s Society said that the world could “no longer ignore the growing mountain of evidence” that many lifestyle factors play a key role in the development of dementia.