Dementia numbers could rise to 152 million by 2050: Report
The rise in dementia cases will be particularly among low and middle-income countries, said experts.
Nearly 50 million people around the world live with dementia, and this number is projected to increase to 152 million by 2050 according to the 2020 report of the Lancet Commission. The rise in cases will be particularly among low and middle-income countries.
The report titled Dementia prevention, intervention, and care: 2020 report of the Lancet Commission expands the number of modifiable risk factors from 9 to 12, to now include head injuries in mid-life, excessive alcohol consumption in mid-life, and exposure to air pollution in later life.
While globally the nine risk factors were estimated to contribute to 35% of all dementia cases, in China they might account for 40% of cases, 41% in India and 56% in Latin America, the report said.
The report explained that 40% of dementia cases could be prevented or delayed by targeting these 12 modifiable risk factors. It added that combined, the three new risk factors are associated with 6% of all dementia cases – with an estimated 3% of cases attributable to head injuries in mid-life, 1% of cases to excessive alcohol consumption in mid-life, and 2% to exposure to air pollution in later life. The remaining risk factors are associated with 34% of all dementia cases . The factors associated with the greatest proportion of dementia cases in the population are less education in early life, hearing loss in mid-life, and smoking in later life which stand at 7%, 8%, and 5%, respectively.
The report presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC 2020) said that dementia affects individuals, their families, and
the economy, with global costs estimated at about US$1 trillion annually. “Our report shows that it is within the power of policy-makers and individuals to prevent and delay am significant proportion of dementia, with opportunities to make an impact at each stage of a person’s life,” said lead author Professor Gill Livingston, University College London, UK. “Interventions are likely to have the biggest impact on those who are disproportionately affected by dementia risk factors, like those in low and middle-income countries and vulnerable populations, including Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities.”
In certain countries, however, the proportion of older people with dementia has fallen. The report said that this could be probably due to improvements in education, nutrition, health care, and lifestyle changes, demonstrating the possibility of reducing dementia through preventative measures.
The 2020 Commission update calls for nations and individuals to be ambitious about preventing dementia, and lays out a set of policies and lifestyle changes to help.
To address dementia risk, the authors call for nine recommendations to be undertaken by policymakers and individuals:
• Aim to maintain systolic blood pressure of 130 mm Hg or less in midlife from around age 40 years.
• Encourage use of hearing aids for hearing loss and reduce hearing loss by protecting ears from high noise levels.
• Reduce exposure to air pollution and second-hand tobacco smoke.
• Prevent head injury (particularly by targeting high risk occupations and transport)
• Prevent alcohol misuse and limit drinking to less than 21 units per week.
• Stop smoking and support individuals to stop smoking.
• Provide all children with primary and secondary education.
• Lead an active life into mid, and possibly later life.
• Reduce obesity and diabetes.
The experts also noted that people with dementia are particularly at risk from COVID-19 (due to age and having pre-existing illnesses, such as hypertension), and that physical-distancing measures can be challenging for dementia patients, who may find it difficult to adhere to the guidelines or distressing to be unable to have contact with carers and family.