Dementia is on the rise — and in a comprehensive study of all risk factors and care techniques recently published by The Lancet, the evidence confirms that the degenerative disease is a prevalent issue now more than ever.
“As the world's population increases in age, the number of people living with dementia grows, and this figure is projected to continue to rise,” the study’s introduction claims. This is nothing new. According to the World Health Organization, “47.5 million people have dementia and there are 7.7 million new cases every year.”
So if you are 50 years of age or older — or just plan to be someday — this information applies to you.
However, all these rather specific guidelines’ impact on dementia risk may just be part of a more broad effect of healthful living. In this study, researchers concluded that dementia risk has been revealed in past studies as increasing due to “cardiovascular disease, cerebrovascular disease, metabolic and psychiatric factors, diet, lifestyle, and education.”
All of these risk factors are caustic side effects of neglecting to practice healthful habits such as eating nutritiously, remaining cognitively active, and exercising. Essentially, to decrease your risk of dementia you really just need to live a healthy lifestyle.
We know: Easier said than done. But perhaps this is the harsh reality of disease and prevention — that the only way to effectually ward off disease, including dementia, is to keep up those healthy habits.
A particularly interesting factor determining dementia risk, however, was education. In fact, according to the study’s report, “the decrease in age-specific prevalence was associated with an increase in education.”
The more you invest in your brain, the longer you get to keep it.
This breakthrough gives us yet another reason to hit the books, and to ensure that our children care to do the same. “Cognitive resilience in later life is likely to be enhanced by building brain reserve earlier in life through education and other intellectual stimulation,” explained the report. The impact wasn’t in how smart a person was or in their IQ, but rather in the amount of time and investment they put into knowledge.
However, it is important to note that despite the decrease in risk factors through healthy living and learning, “the greatest risk factor for dementia overall, is unmodifiable.”
Old age was the number one cause of dementia in sufferers — and unfortunately, science has yet to devise a remedy for time.