brainscanIn conjunction with World Alzheimer's Day (21 September), Alzheimer's Disease International (ADI) has launched the World Alzheimer Report 2014 looking at modifiable risk factors for dementia and calling for the disease to be integrated into global and national public health programmes.

The report revealed that control of diabetes and high blood pressure as well as measures to encourage smoking cessation and to reduce cardiovascular risk, have the potential to reduce the risk of dementia even in late-life.

In particular, diabetes can increase the risk of dementia by 50%. Obesity and lack of physical activity are important risk factors for diabetes and hypertension, and should, therefore, also be targeted.

Marc Wortmann, executive director of ADI, said: "From a public health perspective, it is important to note that most of the risk factors for dementia overlap with those for the other major non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

"In high income countries, there is an increased focus on healthier lifestyles, but this is not always the case with lower and middle income countries. By 2050, we estimate that 71% of people living with dementia will live in these regions, so implementing effective public health campaigns may help to reduce the global risk."

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The researchers, led by Professor Martin Prince from King’s College London, also suggested that if we enter old age with better developed, healthier brains we are likely to live longer, happier and more independent lives, with a much reduced chance of developing dementia. Brain health promotion is important across the life span, but particularly in mid-life, as changes in the brain can begin decades before symptoms appear, the report concluded.

"There is already evidence from several studies that the incidence of dementia may be falling in high income countries, linked to improvements in education and cardiovascular health,” added Professor Prince. “We need to do all we can to accentuate these trends. With a global cost of over $600 billion, the stakes could hardly be higher."

ADI is calling on global organisations to combine their efforts to tackle the increasing global burden of NCDs as leading a healthier lifestyle is a positive step towards preventing a range of long-term diseases such as cancer, as well as tackling dementia.

September marks the third global World Alzheimer’s Month, an international campaign to raise awareness and challenge stigma. Throughout the month Alzheimer’s associations around the world have focused their campaigns on advocacy and awareness with information provision, memory walks, media appearances and free memory screenings taking place across the globe.

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