Finally some good news on the Alzheimer’s front; according to new research, the much-feared explosion of the disease has been ‘canceled’, as dementia rates seem to be stabilizing in various parts of Europe.
Leading Alzheimer’s researcher, the UK is among the statistics that give us hope; defying predictions made a decade earlier, the number of British people over 65 who struggle with dementia has dropped with more than a fifth in 2011.
But the UK is not the only one showing promising change, as plenty of other European countries seem to be on board with the trend. In Spain, for example the prevalence of dementia has fallen with 43 percent in men over 65 between 1987 and 1996, joined by similar positive reports from Sweden and the Netherlands.
According to experts, the great majority of evidence predicting a dementia “epidemic” came from an outdated study started all the way back in the 1980s. It’s important, however, to take under consideration that health care, living conditions and lifestyle have all improved, offering a welcomed alteration to the somber picture.
Senior researcher Prof Carol Brayne with the Institute of Public Health at Cambridge University explained there’s well-founded reason to believe in this suggested decrease in dementia. First of all, it’s in line with known improvements in protective factors for mental health – such as living conditions and education – and secondly, it also coincides with a general drop in risk factors over past decades, such as vascular diseases.
Ever since that study in the 1980s, high-income countries have continuously reported a significant decrease in deaths from major cardiovascular diseases due to improvements in prevention and treatment of crucial risk factors like cholesterol and high blood pressure. It is possible that we’re witnessing these changes reflected in the reduced risk of developing dementia.
Approximately 850,000 people in the UK are currently living with dementia, with Alzheimer’s disease accounting for more than 60 percent of them. That’s why caring for the sufferers will keep on being a major challenge in the upcoming years, as pointed out by the study’s authors.
Even though she was not a part of the research, Dr. Elizabeth Coulthard, consultant senior lecturer in dementia neurology at the University of Bristol, explained that it’s very likely that previous predictions of Alzheimer’s prevalence were slightly exaggerated.
However, in spite of the stabilizing rates, dementia still has a huge effect on roughly 7 percent of people over 65 and 40 percent of those over 80. She encouraged scientists to keep on pushing for the advancement of treatments delaying progression of dementia and try to improve quality of life for those living with the disease.
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