How to reduce dementia risk
Worldwide, around 50 million people have some form of dementia. By 2030, that number is expected to rise to 82 million; by 2050, 152 million. There is good news, though. We can all make lifestyle changes that can lower our risk of dementia — even if it’s intergenerational. A recent study of 200,000 people who led a healthy lifestyle showed the risk of dementia fell by a third. All aged 64, the participants were genetically analysed for their risk of developing dementia before being studied for a further eight years. Among those at risk — and who led an unhealthy lifestyle — the study found 18 cases of dementia per 1,000 participants. However, that figure fell to 11 out of 1,000 if those at high risk adopted healthy habits.
For the purposes of the study, a person who led an unhealthy lifestyle was categorised as one who smoked, did no exercise, ate a poor diet, and drank at least three pints of beers a day. A person leading a healthy lifestyle was categorised as someone who didn’t smoke, cycled for two-and-a-half hours a week, ate a balanced diet, and drank up to a pint of beer a day.
Researchers say, while the figure may appear small, cutting dementia rates by a third in people in their mid-60s would have a significant impact on people as they age. "It could equate to hundreds of thousands of people," Dr David Llewellyn told the BBC. While researchers stress that living healthily will not guarantee you’ll dodge dementia completely, lifestyle changes will lower the odds. "Even if you're worried about dementia — maybe you've got a family history yourself — what our research suggests is it doesn't matter,” said Dr Llewellyn. “You’re still likely to lower your own risk of dementia substantially if you change to a healthy lifestyle — that’s really empowering.”