More than a third of all cases of dementia are preventable
Millions of people around the world suffer from dementia. For the majority of dementia-related illnesses, experts say there is currently no cure. But more than a third of all cases of dementia could be prevented. This is from a recent report.
About 1.6 million people in Germany suffer from dementia; by 2050, it is estimated that there will be up to 2.8 million. Experts now report that about 40% of all cases of dementia could be prevented. (Image: LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS / stock.adobe.com)
Dementia is a generic term for various forms of illness. Diseases develop differently, but they all lead to long-term loss of mental performance. Most dementias cannot be cured at this time. But a lot could be avoided.
Three new risk factors
As the German Society of Neurology (DGN) writes in a recent press release, 50 million people worldwide suffer from dementia, including 1.6 million in Germany alone; by 2050, it is estimated that there will be up to 2.8 million.
Although or precisely because dementia is not (yet) curable at present, prevention and early detection are extremely important, as development and course can be greatly influenced. This is what the current “Lancet Commission Report 2020” shows. According to this, 40 percent of all dementia cases could be prevented or at least significantly delayed if all risk factors are avoided or minimized.
Experts added three new risk factors to the nine known modifiable risk factors: traumatic brain injury, air pollution and excessive alcohol consumption (> 21 units of alcohol per week).
The following factors were identified in 2017 (in decreasing order of level of influence): hearing loss, low level of education, smoking, lack of social contact, depression, hypertension (high blood pressure), obesity, sedentary lifestyle and diabetes mellitus . In total, up to 40 of the named dementias are at the expense of the named factors.
It’s never too late for prevention
As the authors point out, it is never too late in life to start preventing dementia. The newly identified risk factor for head injury is important for everyday life (eg in traffic and in sport).
“This shows that helmets or bicycle helmets offer protection against subsequent dementia in certain high-risk sports,” explains Prof. Dr. Peter Berlit, General Secretary of the DGN. “The harmful effects of alcohol and air pollution should also be widely publicized.”
The Lancet Report not only details these factors and how they can be changed, but also gives recommendations for the management of people with dementia. The goal is holistic care that includes physical, psychological and mental aspects as well as age-related co-morbidities.
Social contact, care and protection of patients with dementia must be ensured, also in order to avoid unnecessary hospitalizations. Last but not least, the situation of family caregivers (eg excessive demands, fear, depression) must be kept in mind, as “caring for family carers” has lasting effects on their quality of life and their morbidity.
National strategy on dementia
Statistically, there is already one person with dementia in every 25th German household – and given the changing demographics, that number will continue to rise. The fact that dementia is not only a health problem but also a problem for society as a whole is illustrated by an initiative of the Federal Ministry for Families, Seniors, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ) and the Federal Ministry of Health (BMG) under the co-chairmanship of the German Alzheimer Society. have developed a national dementia strategy.
The various federal states, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the German Medical Association, the National Association of Legal Health Insurance Doctors, nursing associations – a total of over 70 organizations from the health sector, civil society and science, including the DGN.
Four thematic priorities were defined there. First, better framework conditions must be created for the longest possible social participation of patients. In municipalities, social infrastructure and the local environment need to be made more dementia friendly.
Secondly, family members or caregivers should be given more support, advice and adequate offers for regular breaks to relax in everyday life. Third, medical and nursing care still needs to be developed. And the fourth goal is to promote excellent dementia research.
According to reports, by signing the National Dementia Strategy, those involved have committed to implementing a total of 27 goals by 2026.
“The national dementia strategy is therefore an important step. It will make a significant contribution to improving the care of patients with dementia in Germany. In collaboration with groups operating under the aegis of the National Strategy on Dementia (for example with the DGN), new avenues will be explored ”, says Professor Richard Dodel, Essen, dementia expert at the DGN. “Plus, modifiable risk factors represent a great opportunity: more than a third of all dementias could be prevented!” (Ad)
Author and source information
This text conforms to the requirements of specialized medical literature, medical directives and current studies and has been verified by health professionals.
German Society of Neurology (DGN): National dementia strategy adopted – 40% of all dementia cases could be prevented, (accessed 29.09.2020), German Society of Neurology (DGN) Livingston G, Huntley J, Sommerlad A et al .: Dementia prevention, intervention and care: Lancet Commission report 2020; in: The Lancet, (published: 07/30/2020), The Lancet National Dementia Strategy: Working together for people with dementia in Germany, (accessed: 09/29/2020), National Dementia Strategy
This article is provided for informational purposes only and should not be used for self-diagnosis or self-treatment. It cannot replace a visit to the doctor.