The Lancet Commission: One Third of Dementia May Be Preventable
In a report presented today at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2017 (AAIC 2017) in London, The Lancet International Commission on Dementia Prevention, Intervention and Care reported that more than one third of global dementia cases may be preventable through addressing lifestyle factors that impact an individual’s risk. These potentially modifiable risk factors have been identified at multiple phases across the life-span, not just in old age.
“Today’s findings are extremely hopeful,” said Maria Carrillo, PhD, chief science officer at the Alzheimer’s Association. “At an individual level, many people have the potential to reduce their risk of cognitive decline, and perhaps dementia, through simple, healthful behavior changes. At a public health level, interventions based on this evidence could be extremely powerful in managing the global human and economic costs of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.”
The Lancet Commission brought together 24 international experts to consolidate the huge strides that have been made in our knowledge and understanding of dementia risk factors, treatment and care, and the emerging knowledge as to what we should do to prevent and manage dementia. The Commission conducted a new review and meta-analysis; based on which they extended current models of risk by including hearing loss and social isolation. By incorporating potentially modifiable risk factors from across the life-span, they proposed a novel life-course model of risk, highlighting the opportunity for prevention.
- Be ambitious about prevention. Interventions for established risk factors may have the potential to delay or prevent one third of dementias.
- Treat cognitive symptoms. To maximize cognition, people with Alzheimer’s dementia or dementia with Lewy bodies should be offered cholinesterase inhibitors at all stages, or memantine for severe dementia.
- Individualize dementia care. Good dementia care spans medical, social and supportive care; and should be tailored to unique individual and cultural needs, preferences, and priorities.
- Care for family carers. Family carers are at high risk of depression. Effective interventions reduce the risk and treat the symptoms, and should be made available.
- Plan for the future. People with dementia and their families value discussions about the future and important upcoming decisions.
- Manage neuropsychiatric symptoms. Management of the neuropsychiatric symptoms of dementia – including agitation, low mood or psychosis – is usually psychological, social, and environmental, with drug treatment reserved for more severe symptoms.
- Consider end of life. A third of older people die with dementia, so it is essential that professionals working in end-of-life care consider whether a patient has dementia as they may be unable to make decisions about their care or express their needs and wishes
According to the Commission’s report, worldwide dementia prevalence could be reduced by more than 1 million cases with a 10 percent reduction in the prevalence of seven principal health and lifestyle factors. An intervention that delayed dementia by a year might decrease the number of people living with dementia globally by 9 million in 2050.
“Overall, there is good potential for prevention and, once someone develops dementia, for care to be high-quality, accessible, and give value to an underserved, growing population. Effective dementia prevention and care could transform the future for society and vastly improve living and dying for individuals with dementia and their families. Acting now on what we already know can make this difference happen,” said Lon Schneider, MD, from the University of Southern California and co-author of the Commission.
The Alzheimer’s Association offers 10 Ways to Love Your Brain, including practical guidance to reduce your dementia risk based on the latest research.
About Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC)
The Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) is the world’s largest gathering of researchers from around the world focused on Alzheimer’s and other dementias. As a part of the Alzheimer’s Association’s research program, AAIC serves as a catalyst for generating new knowledge about dementia and fostering a vital, collegial research community.
AAIC 2017 home page: www.alz.org/aaic/
AAIC 2017 newsroom: www.alz.org/aaic/pressroom.asp