Abstract: Dementia is a challenge for both families and societies, but recent reseach shows that it can be effectively prevented by improving 12 risk factors.
According to statistics of 2018, dementia attacked one person worldwide every 3 seconds. At present, there are at least 50 million dementia patients in the world, and this number is expected to reach 152 million by 2050. Dementia has become a major public health problem that seriously affects the health and quality of life of the global population. The global annual loss caused by dementia is approximately US$1 trillion.
In recent years, the number of elderly people suffering from dementia has been increasing. However, in many developed countries, the incidence of age-related dementia has begun to decline. This may be directly related to education, nutrition, health care and lifestyle changes of the population.
In a review report entitled DementiaPrevention, Intervention, and Care: 2020 Report of the Lancet Commission published in the international journal The Lancet, scientists from University College London suggest to add 3 risk factors (excessive drinking, traumatic brain injury and air pollution) to the original version of 9 factors which have already been approved by convincing evidence (including low education level, hypertension, hearing loss, smoking, obesity, depression, physical inactivity, diabetes and social isolation).
In order to address the risk of dementia in the global population, researchers call on decision makers and individuals to take the following measures:
(1) Monitor the blood pressure and keep the high blood pressure below 130mmHg;
(2) Use hearing aids to improve hearing;
(3) Reduce exposure to air pollution and second-hand smoke;
(4) Prevent head injuries (especially for high-risk occupations);
(5) Prevent alcohol abuse;
(6) Stop smoking, which is good for people of any age;
(7) Provide all children with compulsory education in primary and secondary schools;
(8) Keep an active attitude;
(9) Reduce the incidence of obesity and diabetes.
The first author, Professor Gill Livingston, said that this report shows that decision makers and individuals are fully capable of preventing and slowing the emergence or occurrence of a large number of dementia patients. Interventions may have the greatest impact on people who are more affected by dementia risk factors, such as low- and middle-income countries and vulnerable groups.
Researchers say that people with dementia are especially affected by COVID-19 (due to age, underlying diseases, such as high blood pressure, etc.). Therefore, physical distancing measures may be a challenge for people with dementia for they may find it difficult to follow the guidelines or feel very distressed by not being able to contact caregivers and family members.
At the same time, the researchers also called on everyone in the world to have confidence in preventing dementia. In addition to the aforementioned 9 measures, they have formulated a series of policies and lifestyle changes to help prevent the occurrence of dementia in the global population.
Research on the treatment of dementia is also constantly advancing. In July 2020, Professor Lars Ittner and Dr. Arne Ittner at Dementia Research Center of Macquarie University in Australia have made an exciting breakthrough in the study of Alzheimer's disease, which takes up about 60%-70% of dementia patients. By carrying out the first related experiment based on gene therapy in mice, the research team tried to activate a key enzyme in the brain, known as p38pamma, to prevent or even reverse the memory loss caused by Alzheimer's disease.
Although there is still a huge gap between the researchers’ ultimate goal, our cognition and understanding on the risk factors, potential prevention, detection, and diagnosis measures of dementia are constantly improving. In the above-mentioned report and research, the scientists are dedicated to proposing relevant policies to postpone the onset of cognitive impairment of dementia, which may be expected to support and treat patients with dementia and improve their quality of life.