Could Lifestyle Changes Cut Dementia Rates?

FRIDAY Aug. 6, 2010 -- It may be possible to lower the incidence of dementia by reducing rates of diabetes and depression, boosting education, and increasing fruit and vegetable consumption, according to a new study.

The exact cause of dementia hasn't been pinpointed, but several modifiable risk factors have been identified, including a history of depression, type of diet, level of alcohol consumption, education level and vascular risk factors (heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and high cholesterol).

This study included 1,433 healthy people over age 65 living in the south of France. They underwent cognitive testing at the start of the study and again two, four and seven years later. The participants also provided medical history and personal information on diet, education, monthly income, alcohol consumption and tobacco use.

The researchers concluded that eliminating depression and diabetes and increasing fruit and vegetable consumption would lead to an overall 21 percent reduction in new cases of dementia. Eliminating depression alone would lead to a 10 percent reduction, although researchers caution that a causal link between depression and dementia is unclear.

They also said that increasing education would reduce new cases of dementia by an estimated 18 percent in the general population over the next seven years. In comparison, eliminating the primary known genetic risk factor would lead to a 7 percent reduction.

The findings suggest that public health initiatives to combat dementia should focus on prompt treatment of depressive symptoms, early screening for glucose intolerance and insulin resistance (early states of diabetes development), and encouraging literacy for people of all ages, the researchers said.

The study was published Aug. 6 on bmj.com.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about dementia.

Posted: August 2010


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