Alzheimer's risk factors ignored, says report
More than 1,000 people living with Alzheimer's disease may have been spared the condition if more attention was given to key risk factors, such as low levels of education and unhealthy lifestyles, a new report has revealed.
Although not all dementia can be prevented, there are seven risk factors including low education, diabetes, smoking, depression, physical inactivity, mid-life obesity, and high blood pressure.
The warning is made in a report 'Brain Health and Dementia Prevention in Ireland' commissioned by the Alzheimer Society of Ireland and carried out by the Institute of Public Health Ireland.
It pointed out there are currently 48,000 people living with dementia in Ireland but this is expected to reach around 140,000 by 2041. Next year alone, some 4,000 people will develop dementia - 11 people a day.
The report emphasises the need for 'brain health' to be used to inform Government policies geared at minimising early school leaving and promoting a healthy lifestyle which, it is believed, could prove significant in reducing dementia risk at population level.
Increased levels of education could not just delay the early symptoms of dementia, but may also slow down the development of the condition.
Low levels of education were a potential factor for 18pc of dementia prevalence in Ireland in 2011. The findings indicate that if the level of low education had been reduced by 10pc over the lifetime of the population this could have resulted in 715 fewer cases.
If smoking had been reduced by the same amount this could have cut numbers by 594. More exercise could have cut cases by 615, while almost 6pc of dementia cases could potentially have been avoided if obesity in mid-life had been cut.
Tina Leonard of the Alzheimer Society said: "Prevention and health promotion policy has to start to include dementia. Current health promotion in Ireland ignores modifiable risk factors for dementia. For example, the Department of Health's Tobacco Free Policy highlights the associations between smoking and premature mortality, cancers and respiratory diseases but not the established links between smoking and dementia.
"We are calling on the Government to take heed of these findings and mobilise public health approaches now as we fight to reduce the prevalence of dementia."