The latest research
Improving our understanding of dementia, and the steps we can take to reduce our risk, is an important part of what we do at Alzheimer’s Research UK. And it perfectly complements our pioneering research to understand the brain and how we can overcome dementia once and for all.
We invest around £20m in pioneering research every year – funding scientists as they start new projects and supporting ongoing initiatives.
Right now, we’re supporting over £5m worth of research into dementia risk factors and how to protect brain health. Our scientists are growing the evidence, pinpointing the factors involved, and testing new ways to help people.
By tapping into studies that track people over time, our researchers are revealing how brain health is shaped throughout life. Evidence suggests that some factors early in our life, including our education, play a role in our risk, but midlife is an important window too.
Researchers leading our Insight 46 study at University College London have been working with an important group of volunteers who were all born in March 1946. Using brain scans, they have found that faster rises in blood pressure in midlife are linked to more signs of blood vessel damage and with smaller brain size at age 70.
“Our findings suggest that increasing or high blood pressure even as early as the 30s could have a knock-on effect on brain health four decades later” says Prof Jon Schott, who is leading the study.
Our MedEx study is setting out to understand whether education and dedicated support can help people at risk of heart disease to adopt a Mediterranean style diet and exercise regularly. If successful, the study could lead to larger trials studying whether these changes can affect our dementia risk.
Beyond heart health, our scientists are exploring how we can stay sharp and keep connected with the world around us. This is especially important since the COVID-19 epidemic, where lockdown has made socialising and connecting much harder.
Research we funded at the University of Cambridge revealed that over 65s who had greater social engagement had better brain health, and by partnering with the Royal National Institute for Deaf People, we’re driving efforts to understand the emerging link between hearing loss and dementia. Together, we’re supporting Dr Piers Dawes at the University of Manchester as he explores whether treating hearing loss could help reduce dementia risk.
“We want to see whether hearing aids could help keep people connected to family, friends and loved ones for longer” says Dr Dawes.
These are just a few of the exciting research projects we’re funding, with each one helping to build a clearer picture of how we stay brain healthy and help stack the odds against dementia.