Research suggests dementia prevalance may be declining in high income countries

16 July 2014 - New research presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference (AAIC) in Copenhagen has suggested that age-specific incidence rates of dementia may be in decline in higher income countries.

Researchers from Germany and the US have speculated that the decrease may be the result of improvements in two key factors associated with dementia: levels of education and incidence of cardiovascular disease and its associated risks. The US project examined data from the Framingham heart study, a multi-generational cohort study that has been ongoing since 1948.

However, researchers have also cautioned that predicted future prevalence of midlife diabetes and obesity could reverse the trend, given that both these conditions are linked to an increased risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Furthermore, they have stressed that as the study is almost exclusively made up of white individuals, the same trend of declining dementia incidence may not be true across other racial and ethnic groups.

Marc Wortmann, Executive Director of Alzheimer's Disease International said: "These data sets are promising and show the potential impact of effective public health programs. However, the incidence and prevalence of dementia is still increasing rapidly in many other parts of the world. By 2050, 71% of people living with the disease will live in low and middle income countries. It is vital that we continue to campaign for better Alzheimer's and dementia policies in countries across the world."

The researchers have suggested that while the study does highlight the potential of effective public health programs, the sucess of global ageing will mean the total number of people living with dementia will nevertheless increase rapidly in the coming decades.

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