My mission is to empower senior living communities and families with the knowledge and resources to communicate effectively with individuals exhibiting dementia symptoms. Throughout my interactions with people at my presentations and trainings, I get asked a lot about the risk factors for dementia.
A recent breakthrough from the scientific community offers a promising tool that could shape our approach in the coming years.
A Glimpse into the Future of Dementia Care
With global dementia cases projected to skyrocket to 153 million by 2050, the condition is poised to challenge health and social care systems worldwide. However, by focusing on certain risk factors, many of which are tied to lifestyle choices, we could potentially prevent many of these cases.
Pioneers from the University of Oxford have introduced a dementia risk score, rooted in 11 predominantly modifiable risk factors. This groundbreaking score can pinpoint individuals, from mid-life onward, at risk of developing dementia within the subsequent 14 years. This pivotal research was shared in the esteemed BMJ Mental Health journal.
Collectively, the studies encompassed data from individuals aged 50 to 73. From a vast pool of 28 recognized dementia-related factors, researchers distilled the list to the 11 most predictive ones. These factors are:
- Being male
- Living alone
- A history of diabetes
- Stroke history
- Dementia prevalence in parents
- Levels of deprivation
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
Furthermore, scientists investigated these risk factors in conjunction with the APOE gene, a recognized genetic risk factor for dementia. This resulted in the development of the UKBDRS-APOE tool. Impressively, the UKBDRS-APOE tool showcased the highest prediction accuracy, outshining many current risk assessment tools.
Beyond merely identifying potential risks, these tools illuminate preventive avenues individuals can pursue promptly. Current understanding suggests that by making specific lifestyle adjustments, like quitting smoking, managing blood pressure, or moderating alcohol intake, we can counteract up to 40% of dementia cases.
This newly minted tool holds the potential to serve as a preliminary dementia screening instrument, segmenting individuals into distinct “risk groups.” This categorization can then guide targeted interventions and preventive measures.
A Beacon of Hope for Dementia Care
This study offers a small glimpse of hope. By proactively identifying risk factors and implementing preventive strategies, we can better navigate the challenges of dementia, ensuring that our loved ones and residents receive the care they truly deserve.
In the meantime, we all must remain diligent in our efforts to increase Dementia Awareness. For more information on my trainings, click here.