New study isolates four key risk factors for dementia

New study puts focus on need to prepare and plan for big spike in sufferers.

sugary drink

Four modifiable risk factors are responsible for the big jump in the number of people suffering from dementia worldwide, according to new research.

The incidence of dementia globally more than doubled between 1990 and 2016, from 20.2 million in 1990 to 43.8 million in 2016, a new paper published in The Lancet Neurology reports. And researchers want more preventative action.

The study, Global, regional, and national burden of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias, 1990–2016, was prepared by academics from several institutions and led by the University of Melbourne and the University of Washington.

It found that more women than men had dementia in 2016 (27 million vs 16.8 million), that dementia was the fifth leading cause of death globally and that prevalence doubled every five years after age 50.

Strikingly, it found that the 22.3 per cent of healthy years lost due to dementia in 2016 were due to modifiable risk factors.

The authors said: “In our study, 22.3 per cent of the total global disability-adjusted life years lost due to dementia in 2016 could be attributed to the four modifiable risk factors – being overweight, high blood sugar, consuming a lot of sugar-sweetened beverages and smoking.”

University of Melbourne lead author Professor Cassandra Szoeke said even more risk factors would be explored in the new data collection.

“But already the importance of these risks in allowing us to prevent or delay dementia is clear,” she said. “The paper noted that changes in risk factor exposure over time as we become healthier might account for several cohort studies documenting a reduction in age-specific incidence rates ...”

Prof. Szoeke said that because dementia developed at least 20 to 30 years before it could be diagnosed, studies needed to investigate cognition over 20 to 30 years to determine when and for how long intervention was needed to prevent the disease.

Most randomised controlled trials lasted one to five years, she said, with 30-year longitudinal studies rare.

“In addition, when you look over decades, there are so many exposures that impact on our health,” she said. “You need to account for all these things or you could miss a factor that is crucial in the development of disease.”

Prof. Szoeke said that by 2050, 100 million people would be living with dementia.

“The paper states that to support our community, we will need a larger workforce of trained health professionals as well as … facilities and community-based services that support improved quality of life.

“We need to enhance the quality of life and function of people living with cognitive impairment and focus on preventing further cognitive decline. This will need a co-developed community-wide approach with well-developed services and an even greater network of trained health professionals.

“Chronic diseases are becoming the leading causes of death and disability worldwide, and while we continue to work daily on new therapies to target disease, at home we really need to focus more on the health choices that we know extend both disease-free and disability-free survival.”

Are you aware of the four key risk factors involved in dementia? Did you know that onset starts 20 to 30 years before the disease becomes recognisable?



    To make a comment, please register or login
    21st Dec 2018
    The risk factors are likely to cause something as serious than dementia, before they cause dementia.
    21st Dec 2018
    Agree with you Charlie
    21st Dec 2018
    Only thing that makes sense to me in this article is that onset starts 20 or 30 years before disease is recognized! Causes of dementia are inconclusive & i think there have been a lot of possible causes that have been missed in research/studies & that weight, blood sugar, smoking etc are just stabs in the dark scapegoats! Hoping something more positive will be found very soon as far as prevention & treatment/cure tho too late for my dad (in mid- late stages dementia) & his mother (died over 30 years ago with alzheimers). I'm 57 & very concerned for my future tho feel would only be clutching at straws listening to current advice/prevention measures!
    21st Dec 2018
    It sounds as if the dementia in your family could be genetic. If you are fearful, genetic testing will reveal whether you carry the gene or not. That is, if you want to know. This test is of course is not prevention, only information.
    22nd Dec 2018
    No such thing as genetic, it is just we usually eat the same crap as our parents did. Cheezil61, there is still time, read some books by Anthony William, I just finished reading Liver Rescue and it is amazing how well you can become from looking after the liver that works hard to get the toxins out of your body, drink some lemon juice every morning for starters, cut back on animal protein and fats of any kind.
    22nd Dec 2018
    musicveg you are incorrect. The gene has been found for early onset Alzheimer's disease. it has nothing to do with what you eat.

    The below has something to do with what you eat but genetic Alzheimer's doesn't.

    Jun 14, 2016 - Vegetarians have a higher risk of vitamin B-12 deficiency that, if undetected and left untreated, can cause cognitive problems and even dementia. ... No current studies have investigated whether the vegan diet may promote cognition or prevent Alzheimer's disease.
    22nd Dec 2018
    I guess it depends on where you read your research, I have been vego for over 30 years and never once when tested was lacking in B12, many meat eaters can be just as deficient. And I do believe diet has a lot to do with it, there is just not enough study of healthy vegan and vegos, many vegans can be unhealthy due to eating too much processed foods and fats too. And of course your environment plays a big part too, even the personal care products you use, and the chemicals you are exposed to in a lifetime, it all adds up.
    21st Dec 2018
    21st Dec 2018
    Smoking definitely can cause vascular dementia.
    Heavy alcohol consumption causes Korsakoff syndrome dementia (due to thiamine deficiency.)
    21st Dec 2018
    I knew all that then I forgot
    21st Dec 2018
    hmm, no mention of EMF's, our elctro magnetic and microwave pollution becoming ever more pervasive?
    22nd Dec 2018
    Add too much animal protein, milk, eggs, alcohol, they all wear out your liver which looks after your body and brain.

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