Rapidly rising dementia rates mean the disease will touch more and more people. But there is still time to act.
Dementia rates are rising because of how rapidly Canada’s population is aging — but we will all feel the economic and social burden of the disease.
1 in 5 Canadians aged 45 and older provide some form of care to seniors living with long-term health problems. If you are in your 30s, by the time you are 10 years from retirement, your cohort is even more likely to become part of this “sandwich” generation: balancing full-time work, child care, and caring for aging parents.
The good news is you can do something about dementia. Researchers have discovered that lifestyle choices affect our risk.
- 1 in 3: The number of Alzheimer’s disease cases attributable to risk factors that can be altered, like smoking and physical inactivity.
Researchers believe that abnormal changes in the brain may begin up to 25 years before memory-related Alzheimer’s symptoms start to appear. That means health choices you make in middle age have a huge impact.
BMI: For each unit increase of body mass index in a 50-year-old, one study predicts onset of dementia symptoms 6.7 months earlier.
In another study, participants who engaged in physical activities at least twice a week in their leisure time in mid-life had half the dementia risk of sedentary people.
There are no drugs that cure Alzheimer’s.
- 1,120: number of Alzheimer’s drugs investigated between 1995 and 2014. Only 4 have made it to market, and all treat symptoms, not the disease itself.
- 0.5%: that translates into a success rate of less than 1% of all drugs investigated for Alzheimer’s, versus 4.1% for the pharmaceutical industry as a whole.
But there is preliminary — and controversial — European research that suggests controlling risk factors has begun to affect how many people are getting dementia.
22%: reduction in how many people 65+ were living with dementia in 2011 than predicted in 1990 in one U.K. study, meaning overall numbers are estimated to be stabilizing rather than rising.
43%: reduction in how many men 65+ were living with dementia in 1996 compared to 1987 in Zaragoza, Spain, in another study.
Sources: Alzheimer Society of Canada, Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, Statistics Canada, Canadian Medical Association, Health Quality Ontario, Annals of Internal Medicine, World Alzheimer Report 2015, World Bank, World Health Organization, Lancet Neurology, Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer Society of Canada, Molecular Psychiatry, Nature Reviews Drug Discovery.
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