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A recent study by UCL researchers, published in The Lancet Public Health, has highlighted evolving trends in dementia risk factors, emphasizing a shifting landscape where cardiovascular health factors may be gaining prominence compared to traditional risks like smoking and lower education levels.

Eliminating modifiable risk factors for dementia can prevent mortality

Currently, dementia affects approximately 944,000 individuals in the UK, with over half of the population knowing someone affected by the disease. As a leading cause of death, particularly among women since 2011, its impact underscores the urgency of understanding and addressing its risk factors.

Researchers at UCL have underscored the potential impact of modifiable risk factors, which, if eliminated, could prevent nearly 40% of dementia cases. To explore these dynamics, they analyzed 27 studies spanning from 1947 to 2015, examining global data on dementia risk factors and their prevalence over time.

The findings reveal significant changes with smoking and lower education levels have declined, reducing their association with dementia, but rates of obesity and diabetes have risen, amplifying their contribution to dementia risk. Hypertension emerged consistently as a primary risk factor across various studies.

Dr. Naaheed Mukadam, lead author of the study, underscores the evolving role of cardiovascular risks by noting that these risk factors could be playing a pivotal role in dementia risk. As a result, there is a need for targeted interventions for prevention strategies.

Education attainment in higher-income nations changing risk factors

The study’s insights also highlight socioeconomic and behavioral trends influencing dementia risk. Educational attainment has increased in many higher-income countries, diminishing its significance as a risk factor. Similarly, reduced smoking rates in regions like Europe and the US reflect changing social norms and policies.

Dr. Mukadam suggests that population-wide interventions could significantly alter dementia risk profiles, advocating for global policies promoting education and stricter tobacco regulations.

In conclusion, while traditional risk factors like smoking and education show a declining impact on dementia rates, the rising prevalence of conditions like obesity and diabetes necessitates a renewed focus on cardiovascular health. By addressing these evolving dynamics through targeted public health initiatives, governments can potentially mitigate future dementia burdens.