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How Much Do You Know About Dementia?

Thursday, August 16, 2018
About 47 million people worldwide are living with dementia, and a new diagnosis is made every 3 seconds according to the World Alzheimer Report 2015. 
Last year, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a Global Action Plan on Dementia urging all nations to run public health campaigns to raise awareness about dementia, and to put in place strategies to foster a “dementia-inclusive society” by 2025.

For public health strategies like this to be effective, we need to know what people already understand about dementia. We need to know the people with facts versus fiction, who seeks early diagnosis and which groups don’t have access to early intervention and treatment services. Community surveys help us uncover general community attitudes to dementia and help policy makers plan where to direct funding for prevention through to palliative care services.

A recent systematic review (a search of the data from a large collection of research studies in Europe, the US, Eastern Asia and Australia) found the following beliefs about dementia:

48% of people believe that dementia is not preventable;
42% of people believe they can act to reduce their own risk;
71% of people believe alcohol consumption increases the risk;
56% of people believe stress increases the risk;
37% did not believe that there are medications available to prevent or reduce the risk of dementia;
75% believe vitamins are available to prevent or reduce risk for dementia;
61% believe that risk for dementia is reduced with mental activity;
41% believe risk can be reduced with physical activity;
37% believe eating a healthy diet reduces risk;
13% believe risk can be reduced with social activity.

What do you believe about dementia?

The review also looked at people’s beliefs about available treatments for dementia. Results showed that:
42% believed a cure is available;
89% agreed that people should seek help for memory problems;
55% believe effective treatments exist but only 42% believe effective treatments exist to slow the progression of the disease;
82% of people believe treatments are available to improve the wellbeing of people with dementia.

How much do you know about treatment options for dementia?

Over the last ten years, the belief that dementia is a preventable disease has increased. Fewer people believe that there is a cure for dementia, while belief that effective treatments exist appears to have increased. However, belief that dementia is a normal part of ageing has remained relatively steady.

In a nutshell, this huge review found that the common misconceptions that dementia is a normal part of ageing and it’s not preventable are still very widespread, even among health professionals who diagnose and treat dementia. 

Knowledge about the importance of cognitive leisure activities has improved but still needs a lot more awareness in the community, along with raising awareness of the importance of formal educational attainment and reducing cardiovascular risk factors as preventative strategies. More people need to be aware of evidence that both medical and non-medical methods can delay functional and cognitive decline as we age.

So here are some evidence-based facts about ways to reduce your dementia risk:
People who are happily married (or in a secure long-term relationship) have a lower risk – the relative risk for lifelong singles is 1.42 and the relative risk for those who are widowed is 1.20. This is about being happily engaged in positive intimate relationships .
Nutritional interventions including dietary changes, medical food or nutraceutical supplements (e.g. fish oil, flax seeds) have shown moderate results for preventing the onset of dementia ;
A risk index (Lifestyle for Brain Health, LIBRA) based on 13 measured risk and protective factors can accurately predict future risk of dementia, for example, a one-point increase in LIBRA scores relates to a 19% higher risk for dementia. LIBRA provides a solid tool for “prescribing” changes to lifestyle-related risk factors that may reduce an individual’s risk of dementia in later life .

Dr Kate Lemerle, Psychologist
Chrysalis Counselling & Coaching, Norfolk Island
TEL: 52112 or email 

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