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One in three cases of dementia could be prevented if more people looked after their brain health throughout life, according to an international study published in the Lancet.

Dementia is the greatest global challenge for health and social care in the 21st century: around 50 million people worldwide have dementia and this number is predicted to triple by 2050.

Dementia is not an inevitable consequence of ageing and the study which was published last month identifies nine potentially modifiable health and lifestyle factors from different phases of life that, if eliminated, might prevent dementia.

Although therapies are currently not available to modify the underlying disease process, the study authors outline pharmacological and social interventions that are able to help manage the manifestations of dementia.

Nine factors that contribute to the risk of dementia:

  • Mid-life hearing loss – responsible for 9% of the risk

  • Failing to complete secondary education – 8%

  • Smoking – 5%

  • Failing to seek early treatment for depression – 4%

  • Physical inactivity – 3%

  • Social isolation – 2%

  • High blood pressure – 2%

  • Obesity – 1%

  • Type 2 diabetes – 1%

These risk factors – which are described as potentially modifiable – add up to 35%. The other 65% of dementia risk is thought to be potentially non-modifiable.

The report, which combines the work of 24 international experts, says lifestyle factors can play a major role in increasing or reducing an individual’s dementia risk and are amenable to intervention.

The full publication is available at The Lancet (login required

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