Research shows dementia rates falling by 15% per decade over last 30 years

The risk of developing dementia is falling, thanks to lifestyle improvements such as reductions in smoking, new research has found. Researchers have said that while the overall number of cases is rising due to the population living longer, an individual’s chances of having the disease is going down | Alzheimers Research UK

International experts have presented research indicating that dementia incidence rates may be falling by up to 15% decade on decade. Analysing data from seven population-based studies in the United States and Europe, Prof Hofman and a global team of researchers set out to determine changes in the incidence of dementia between 1988 and 2015.

Of 59,230 individuals included in the research, 5,133 developed dementia. The rate of new dementia cases declined by 15% per decade, a finding that was consistent across the different studies included in the analysis.

The findings will be discussed at the Alzheimer’s Research UK Conference 2019 in Harrogate.

Full story at Alzheimer’s Research UK

See also:

In This video, lead author Albert Hofman, discusses trends in dementia incidence over the last three decades at the Alzheimer’s Research UK  Conference 2019. Prof. Hofman goes on to explain the reasoning behind these trends.

 

Dementia 2020 challenge: progress review

This document summarises the views of stakeholders on the progress of the challenge on dementia so far and sets out actions for the final 2 years of the challenge | Department of Health and Social Care

In 2015, the Dementia 2020 Challenge was launched. The Challenge aims to
make England, by 2020, the best country in the world for dementia care, support,
research and awareness. The Challenge identified 18 key commitments under four
themes: Dementia Awareness; Health and Care Delivery; Risk Reduction; and
Research and Funding.

Since then, significant progress has been made. The Dementia Diagnosis Rate is
above the Challenge’s target of 66.7%. There are now 2.78 million Dementia
Friends and 412 Communities have committed to becoming Dementia Friendly in
England and Wales (as of January 2019), and over one million NHS staff have
attended dementia awareness raising sessions.

During 2018, stakeholders from the health and social care system, and the charitable sector, were asked to comment on the progress of the actions set out in the Challenge on dementia 2020 implementation plan and what else needed to be done to complete them.

This report summarises the responses and sets out revised actions for 2018 to 2020.

Full report: Dementia 2020 Challenge: 2018 Review Phase 1

Staying fit and mentally active linked with reduced dementia risk

Researchers in Sweden have found that women who exercise and stay cognitively active during midlife have a reduced risk of dementia in older age | Neurology | via Alzheimer’s Research UK

In 1968, Swedish researchers began studying a group of 800 women in midlife, between the ages of 38 and 54, and measured the amount of time they spent doing cognitively stimulating activities, including reading books and writing. The team also recorded how much physical activity the women did including walking, and intense training like swimming.

The team followed the volunteers until 2012 to see if they went onto develop dementia. They found that those who were more engaged in physical activity and spent more time doing cognitive tasks had a lower risk of developing the condition.

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Abstract
Objective:  To investigate whether cognitive and physical activities in midlife are associated with reduced risk of dementia and dementia subtypes in women followed for 44 years.

Methods:  A population-based sample of 800 women aged 38–54 years (mean age 47 years) was followed from 1968 to 2012. Cognitive (artistic, intellectual, manual, religious, and club) and physical activity were assessed at baseline. During follow-up, dementia, Alzheimer disease, vascular dementia, mixed dementia, and dementia with cerebrovascular disease were diagnosed according to established criteria based on information from neuropsychiatric examinations, informant interviews, hospital records, and registry data. Cox regression models were used with adjustment for age, education, socioeconomic status, hypertension, body mass index, cigarette smoking, diabetes mellitus, angina pectoris, stress, and major depression.

Results:  We found that cognitive activity in midlife was associated with a reduced risk of total dementia and Alzheimer disease during follow-up. Physical activity in midlife was associated with a reduced risk of mixed dementia and dementia with cerebrovascular disease. The results were similar after excluding those who developed dementia before 1990, except that physical activity was then also associated with reduced risk of total dementia.

Conclusion: Our findings suggests that midlife cognitive and physical activities are independently associated with reduced risk of dementia and dementia subtypes. The results indicate that these midlife activities may have a role in preserving cognitive health in old age.

Full story at Alzheimer’s Research UK

Full reference: Najar, J. et al. | Cognitive and physical activity and dementia. A 44-year longitudinal population study of women | Neurology | First published February 20, 2019

 

Half of UK adults can’t identify single key risk factor for dementia

Alzheimer’s Research UK | February 2019 | Half of UK adults can’t identify single key risk factor for dementia

Alzheimer’s Research UK, the the UK’s leading dementia research charity, has published its findings  from one of the most comprehensive surveys of UK-wide public perceptions of dementia. They have been published today (6 February) by Alzheimer’s Research UK. The Dementia Attitudes Monitor, which will be repeated biennially, includes data from 2,361 interviews conducted by Ipsos MORI between 15 June and 5 July 2018.

The charity’s findings highlight enduring misconceptions around the physical nature of the diseases that cause dementia as well as low understanding of the risk factors for dementia, which is now the leading cause of death in the UK.

Dementia attitudes
Image source: dementiastatistics.org

 

The Monitor reveals that just 1% of UK adults are able to name seven known risk or protective factors for the dementia (risk factors: heavy drinking, genetics, smoking, high blood pressure, depression and diabetes, protective factor: physical exercise) and 48% fail to identify any. With a third of cases of dementia thought to be influenced by factors in our control to change, the findings highlight a clear need for education around dementia prevention.

Key findings include:

  • More than half of UK adults (52%) now say they know someone with dementia.
  • Only half (51%) recognise that dementia is a cause of death* and more than 1 in 5 (22%) incorrectly believes it’s an inevitable part of getting older.
  • Only 34% of people believe it’s possible to reduce the risk of dementia, compared with 77% for heart disease and 81% for diabetes.
  • Three-quarters (73%) of adults would want to be given information in midlife about their personal risk of developing dementia later in life, if doctors could do so.

*Base: Adults 15+ in UK without a dementia diagnosis (2,354) (Source: Alzheimer’s Research UK)

Read the full news release at Alzheimer’s Research UK

Alzheimer’s Research UK Half of UK adults can’t identify single key risk factor for dementia

Read the full report here

See also:

Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Research Hub  Public attitudes towards dementia

In the news:

BBC News Dementia risk factors not known by half the population

Regular problem solving does not protect against mental decline

The well known ‘use it or lose it’ claim has been widely accepted by healthcare professionals, but researchers in the Christmas issue of The British Medical Journal find that regularly doing problem solving activities throughout your lifetime does not prevent mental decline in later life. However, the results suggest that regularly engaging in intellectual activities boosts mental ability throughout life and provides a “higher cognitive point” from which to decline.

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Abstract
Objectives:  To examine the association between intellectual engagement and cognitive ability in later life, and determine whether the maintenance of intellectual engagement will offset age related cognitive decline.

Design: Longitudinal, prospective, observational study.

Setting:  Non-clinical volunteers in late middle age (all born in 1936) living independently in northeast Scotland.

Participants:  Sample of 498 volunteers who had taken part in the Scottish Mental Health Survey of 1947, from one birth year (1936).

Main outcome measures:  Cognitive ability and trajectory of cognitive decline in later life. Typical intellectual engagement was measured by a questionnaire, and repeated cognitive measurements of information processing speed and verbal memory were obtained over a 15 year period (recording more than 1200 longitudinal data points for each cognitive test).

Results:  Intellectual engagement was significantly associated with level of cognitive performance in later life, with each point on a 24 point scale accounting for 0.97 standardised cognitive performance (IQ-like) score, for processing speed and 0.71 points for memory (both P<0.05). Engagement in problem solving activities had the largest association with life course cognitive gains, with each point accounting for 0.43 standardised cognitive performance score, for processing speed and 0.36 points for memory (both P<0.05). However, engagement did not influence the trajectory of age related decline in cognitive performance. Engagement in intellectual stimulating activities was associated with early life ability, with correlations between engagement and childhood ability and education being 0.35 and 0.22, respectively (both P<0.01).

Conclusion:  These results show that self reported engagement is not associated with the trajectory of cognitive decline in late life, but is associated with the acquisition of ability during the life course. Overall, findings suggest that high performing adults engage and those that engage more being protected from relative decline.

Full reference: Staff, R. et al. | Intellectual engagement and cognitive ability in later life (the “use it or lose it” conjecture): longitudinal, prospective study | BMJ | 10 December 2018

Related:

Neck scan could identify early symptoms of dementia in 5 minutes

British Heart Foundation | November 2018 | Neck scan predicts cognitive decline decade in advance

A research team lead by University College London (UCL) Professor John Deanfield, followed over 3000 participants over a fifteen-year period (3,191) middle-aged volunteers, who were given ultrasound in 2002 to measure the intensity of the pulse travelling towards their brain. Over the next 15 years, researchers monitored the participants memory and problem-solving ability.

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According to the research a five minute scan of blood vessels in the neck during mid-life predicts cognitive decline a decade before symptoms appear, according to new research  co-funded by The British Heart Foundation. The findings were presented recently at the American Heart Association’s AHA Scientific Sessions conference in Chicago.

The study’s findings would need confirming in larger stuides, but the scan could potentially be used n future to help doctors identify patients who might be at high risk of developing dementia earlier than  previously possible. 

Those participants with the highest intensity pulse (top quarter) at the outset of the study were  approximately 50 per cent  more likely to exhibit accelerated cognitive decline during the next ten years when compared to the rest of the participant cohort. The researchers controlled factors which might also contribute to cognitive decline, like age, BMI, blood pressure and diabetes.

One of the researchers, Dr Scott Chiesa from UCL commented on their findings:

“These findings demonstrate the first direct link between the intensity of the pulse transmitted towards the brain with every heartbeat and future impairments in cognitive function.”

“It’s therefore an easily measurable and potentially treatable cause of cognitive decline in middle aged adults which can be spotted well in advance.” (Source: British Heart Foundation)

Full press release available from BHF 

In the media:

BBC News Dementia risk: Five-minute scan ‘can predict cognitive decline’

Evening Standard Dementia Screening: ‘Five minute neck scan could spot early signs’ say researchers 

 

 

New resource launched to improve dementia care

People living with dementia will benefit from improved care following the launch of a new resource for healthcare providers and carers | Health Education England

Success in dementia
Image source:hee.nhs.uk

Managing Success in Dementia is a resource commissioned by Health Education England (HEE) and developed by Skills for Care, Skills for Health and Leeds Beckett University to support leaders and managers working across health and social care to implement the training outcomes of the Dementia Training Standards Framework – in particular those responsible for implementing training at Tier 2 level.

Tier 2 training provides additional skills and knowledge for people who regularly work directly with people living with dementia.

Full document: Managing success in dementia care: A support resource for implementing Tier 2 of the Dementia Training Standards Framework in health and social care settings