One in three cases of Alzheimer’s could be prevented

Researchers have used the most up-to-date estimates for Alzheimer’s risk factors to advise that a third of Alzheimer’s cases could be prevented by changes to lifestyle.

Posted on 13th July 2014

Researchers have used the most up-to-date estimates for Alzheimer’s risk factors to advise that a third of Alzheimer’s cases could be prevented by changes to lifestyle. The study is published on Monday 14 July in the journal Lancet Neurology.

The authors gathered a large amount of data, published over recent years, on the relative risk of a person developing Alzheimer’s for the seven most well characterised risk factors; diabetes, midlife hypertension, midlife obesity, physical inactivity, depression, smoking and low educational attainment. Relative risk is the chance that someone will get a disease compared to the risk of disease onset in the general population. The authors worked out what number of Alzheimer’s cases worldwide could be attributed to each of the risk factors individually, and then combined this to get the total number of preventable cases. Similar work in the past has suggested that half of Alzheimer’s cases could be prevented by changes to lifestyle. This new analysis puts the estimate at a third of cases because it recognises that some of the risk factors are interlinked, such as physical activity and obesity, and the links between hypertension and diabetes.

The study authors suggest that by reducing the cases of each of the risk factors by just 10% per decade, the number of people globally living with Alzheimer’s could fall by 8.8 million by 2050.

Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity, said:

“While age is the biggest risk factor for most cases of Alzheimer’s, there are a number of lifestyle and general health factors that could increase or decrease a person’s chances of developing the disease. This new analysis suggests that many cases of Alzheimer’s could be prevented by increasing physical activity, decreasing blood pressure, quitting smoking and altering diet to reduce the cases of diabetes. However, we still do not fully understand the mechanisms behind how these factors are related to the onset of Alzheimer’s.

There are over 820,000 people in the UK living with dementia, and an ageing population will lead to spiralling numbers affected, so it is critical that we bolster our approaches to disease prevention. As there is still no certain way to prevent Alzheimer’s, research must continue to build the strongest evidence around health and environmental factors to help individuals reduce their risk. This new study also highlights that many cases are not due to modifiable risk factors which underlines the need to drive investment into new treatment research to provide hope for those affected today and tomorrow.”

Read more on our blog: Can we prevent Alzheimer’s?

Posted in Science news