Posted on Sep 23, 2016, 6 a.m.
Recent data suggests that at least in richer countries, the rate of new cases has slowed or even reversed, a possible result of quality of life improvements.
There have been fears about an explosion of Alzheimer's Disease across the globe. However, recent data has found that in the richer countries the numbers do continue to grow, but at a slower rate. In some cases, it has even reversed. It is believed that this trend is due to quality-of-life improvements. With populations soaring and people living longer, there is generally more chance of Alzheimer's occurring. This debilitating disease robs older people of their independence and their memories. Alzheimer's is responsible for 60 to 70 percent of dementia cases. Dementia affects approximately 47.5 million people throughout the world with 7.7 million new cases appearing each year.
The World Health Organization explains that the disease normally progresses from absent-mindedness and forgetfulness to major memory loss. This causes almost total dependence, as those who suffer from it become unaware of place and time and eventually even forget how to eat.
Even though Alzheimer's was identified over 100 years ago, there is still no effective cure or treatment, and scientists disagree on the causes. Some think the main culprit is the buildup on the brain of protein plaques, yet some patients have Alzheimer's without it. Several recent studies have even linked the condition to fungus, air pollution, or transmission by accident during a medical procedure.
Fortunately, there are also new studies that show that a healthy lifestyle and lots of brain exercise may actually stave off, or slow dementia. There have been many articles advising the elderly to keep mentally active, by taking an educational course, doing crossword or jigsaw puzzles, keeping score at golf or bowling, or playing any type of math or thinking games that encourage the brain cells to keep being stimulated.
Other factors, are improved cardiovascular health, better cholesterol and high blood pressure medications, and a growing awareness of the dangers of obesity, a lack of exercise, and smoking. However, more research is necessary to prove which factors act as dementia shields. Britain has had the biggest reversal with Alzheimer's there having dropped 20 percent. A study in Nature Communications in April 2016 reported 209,000 new cases in 2015. That is far fewer than the 251,000 that had been forecast back in 1991, which was based then on ageing trends and population growth. Therefore, the likelihood of Britains over 65 developing dementia is lower than it had been for the previous generation. Further research is required, to prove that these factors truly act as dementia shields.
Journal reference: Nature Communications