Eliminating diabetes and depression, and boosting education, most likely to ward off dementia

Aug 05, 2010

Eliminating diabetes and depression, as well as increasing education and fruit and vegetable consumption, are likely to have the biggest impact on reducing levels of dementia in the coming years, should no effective treatment be found, concludes a study published in the British Medical Journal today.

These findings suggest priorities for future public health interventions.

While the exact cause of dementia is still unknown, several modifiable risk factors have already been identified. These include vascular risk factors (heart disease, stroke, , obesity, diabetes, and ), a history of depression, diet, , and .

Based on this knowledge, a team of researchers based in France and the UK estimated which of these risk factors might be most effective in reducing the future burden of dementia, should no effective treatment be found.

Their analysis involved 1,433 healthy people aged over 65 years living in the south of France and recruited between 1999 and 2001. Participants underwent cognitive testing at the start of the study and again at two, four and seven years. A reading test (the Neale score) was also used as an indicator of lifetime intelligence.

Medical history and information on measures such as height, weight, education level, monthly income, mobility, dietary habits, alcohol consumption, and tobacco use was obtained. An individual's of dementia was also measured: although it's not a factor that can be changed it served as a useful benchmark for dementia risk.

Results showed that eliminating depression and diabetes and increasing fruit and vegetable consumption were estimated to lead to an overall 21% reduction in new cases of dementia, with depression making the greatest contribution (just over 10%). However, the researchers point out that the direct (causal) relationship between depression and dementia remains unclear.

Increasing education would also lead to an estimated 18% reduction in new cases of dementia across the general population over the next seven years. By contrast, eliminating the principal known genetic risk factor from the general population would lead only to a 7% reduction in the number of new cases over the next seven years.

Given these findings, the authors suggest that public health initiatives should focus on encouraging literacy at all ages irrespective of ability, prompt treatment of depressive symptoms, and early screening for glucose intolerance and insulin resistance (early stages in the development of diabetes).

While these calculations can only provide a crude estimate of impact on incidence, they do make a significant statement about public health priorities in disease prevention in the face of current knowledge, conclude the authors. Further studies including younger adults are clearly needed to test the impact of intervention measures.

A second study, also published in the today, finds that death rates are more than three times higher in people with dementia than in those without dementia in the first year after diagnosis. The study also says that earlier and better detection of dementia in primary care is needed. An accompanying editorial suggests that key areas to focus on include better education and training in primary care, developing more integrated systems of care, and ensuring that policy makers and commissioners plan services that reflect the effects of on primary care and other services.

Explore further: Researchers discover target for treating dengue fever

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Statins may protect against memory loss

Jul 28, 2008

People at high risk for dementia who took cholesterol-lowering statins are half as likely to develop dementia as those who do not take statins, a new study shows.

Depression may nearly double risk of dementia

Jul 05, 2010

A new study shows that having depression may nearly double your risk of developing dementia later in life. The research will be published in the July 6, 2010, issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academ ...

Low childhood IQ linked to type of dementia

Jun 26, 2008

Children with lower IQs are more likely decades later to develop vascular dementia than children with high IQs, according to research published in the June 25, 2008, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the ...

Recommended for you

Researchers discover target for treating dengue fever

9 hours ago

Two recent papers by a University of Colorado School of Medicine researcher and colleagues may help scientists develop treatments or vaccines for Dengue fever, West Nile virus, Yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis and other ...

Tracking flu levels with Wikipedia

9 hours ago

Can monitoring Wikipedia hits show how many people have the flu? Researchers at Boston Children's Hospital, USA, have developed a method of estimating levels of influenza-like illness in the American population by analysing ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Chronic inflammation linked to 'high-grade' prostate cancer

Men who show signs of chronic inflammation in non-cancerous prostate tissue may have nearly twice the risk of actually having prostate cancer than those with no inflammation, according to results of a new study led by researchers ...

Turning off depression in the brain

Scientists have traced vulnerability to depression-like behaviors in mice to out-of-balance electrical activity inside neurons of the brain's reward circuit and experimentally reversed it – but there's ...

Better thermal-imaging lens from waste sulfur

Sulfur left over from refining fossil fuels can be transformed into cheap, lightweight, plastic lenses for infrared devices, including night-vision goggles, a University of Arizona-led international team ...

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...