Momentum is beginning to build toward a new approach for the prevention and treatment of dementia as yet another much-anticipated medication failed to fulfill to usher in a new day in dementia care. In a recent clinical trial for crenezumab, an experimental Alzheimer’s medication, we learn that it proved to be ineffective.
Researchers and scientists see the latest disappointment as an infliction point in which we pivot and turn attention to preventable methods and risk factors of disease as the most direct route toward fighting this degenerative disease.
As cases across the United States and world begin to rise with a growing aging population, scientists are focused on modifiable risks factors – such as poor vision or high blood pressure. Better understanding the role of untreated high blood pressure, hearing loss and smoking in the development of dementia, for instance, as a concept for dementia prevention is new.
While the medical community agrees on the identified risks factors for dementia, treating these risk factors head-on in context of dementia care represents a new strategy. Scientist hope to both better gain insights into how dementia is developed and how it can be stopped with this renewed focus.
This behavior and intervention approach is a head-start on dementia care because the medical community already has a firm understanding on how treat risk factors early.
Vision correction and treatment are accessible and may prove to lower one’s health risk factor for developing dementia. Eyewear, eye exams and cataract surgery are affordable in many cases. For this reason, researchers remain hopeful that the new approach for dementia prevention is implementable and not over complicated.
Since 2017, a medical movement led by a panel of doctors and public health experts urged health care providers to see dementia care through the lens of preventable care and behavioral modifications. The panel undertook an exhaustive analysis of hundreds of studies to select risk factors most likely to contribute to development of dementia. The risk factors include lower education levels, impaired hearing, obesity, poor air quality, excessive alcohol consumption, high blood pressure and lower levels of social contact.
As the population continues to age in bigger proportion, dementia cases are sure to increase, too. Yet, with a transformed focus on effective treatments for the risks factors that have showed to lead to the development of dementia, there could be a turning of the tide. In fact, we’re already seeing it. In studies of populations in financially stable countries, dementia cases are dropping despite population growth. This can be attributed to intervention and behavioral changes.
Going beyond the data, we should also consider the link between certain risk factors and cognitive decline. Take hearing loss, for instance. The neural system flows and functions in part thanks to stimulation of sensory organs. Leaving poor eye or hearing untreated is like ignoring necessary maintenance of your vehicle, which can lead to engine troubles.
While not everything on the list of risk factors can be immediately or cost effectively addressed, there’s new hope that through healthy living and prevention a new day in dementia care has arrived.
And for caregivers, I encourage you to remain focused on becoming Dementia Aware. Learn more about how I can help you with that here.