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Understanding Dementia Q3 2023

How reducing the risk of dementia is raising awareness

Elderly woman gardening in frontyard with daughter and cat
Elderly woman gardening in frontyard with daughter and cat
iStock / Getty Images Plus / Toa55

Paola Barbarino

Chief Executive Officer, Alzheimer’s Disease International

Approximately 55.6 million cases of dementia globally could be delayed or reduced. Alzheimer’s Disease International describes ways to reduce your risk of developing dementia through its World Alzheimer Report.

Dementia is now the 7th leading cause of death globally and the leading cause of death in the United Kingdom. Globally, 55 million people are living with the condition, a number set to increase to 139 million by 2050. This broadly translates to one person developing the condition every 3 seconds.

Increasing evidence is suggesting that by addressing 12 common risk factors, up to 40% of the cases of dementia could be delayed or prevented equating to 55.6 million cases globally by 2050. This is by no means insignificant. Through increased awareness, it is possible for everyone to have an impact and potentially delay or reduce their chances of developing the condition. Of course, governments must play their part too.

World Alzheimer’s month 

Every September, Alzheimer’s Disease International and its global federation of over 120 members, organise the global awareness raising campaign, World Alzheimer’s Month. This year’s campaign aims to raise awareness and to challenge the stigma and discrimination which still surrounds the condition, with a key focus on the often small lifestyle changes that can have a significant impact on living longer, healthy lives.

Governments and policy makers must
do more to protect their constituents.

World Alzheimer Report 2023 

While knowing the risk factors for dementia is important, the broader question remains on what tangible steps can be taken to reduce risk. While there is no magic bullet for dementia, there are steps that individuals can take to reduce their risk, including slowing down condition progression, following a diagnosis. 

Evidence from the World Alzheimer Report 2023 has shown that exercise such as walking, bike riding, even dancing can help to reduce your risk of developing dementia. Just as it is important to maintain physical health, both social and mental stimulation are other ways we can reduce risk, including by maintaining social connections, learning a new language or challenging yourself with crosswords. 

From a public health perspective, there are active ways in which governments must intervene with risk-reduction strategies. Increasing evidence suggests that providing hearing aids, for those with hearing loss, is a cost-effective measure to reduce a person’s risk of developing dementia. Other risk factors such as air pollution and low education are less simple to tackle, and governments and policymakers must do more to protect their constituents. 

This World Alzheimer’s Month, we hope that all individuals will feel empowered to #ReduceRiskNow and to know that it is #NeverTooEarly or #NeverTooLate to start.

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