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Does a healthy lifestyle protect against dementia?

Does a healthy lifestyle protect against dementia?

Relationship between lifestyle and dementia

A healthy lifestyle could lower the risk of dementia and thus help prevent the number of new cases from increasing to the extent previously assumed in the coming decades. A Swedish study led by researchers from the renowned Karolinska Institute at the University of Stockholm suggests that the number of new cases of dementia - despite the demographic change or the aging of the population - has not increased, but has probably even decreased. The researchers published their results in the journal "Neurology".

Dementia is a relatively widespread neurological disorder in old age, which can occur in various forms and often entails a full-time care requirement for those affected. The estimated number of dementia patients in Germany varies between one and 1.4 million people, with around two thirds of those suffering from Alzheimer's disease. The Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth is assuming that the number of dementia patients will increase to three million by 2050 on its “Wegweiser Demenz” guide. It mainly affects people over the age of 65. Demographic change is seen as a given driver for the increase in dementia. However, according to the results of the current Swedish study, this assumption could turn out to be a fallacy. Because the researchers have not seen an increase in dementia in the past 20 years.

Development of dementia in Stockholm The researchers at the Karolinska Institute compared two studies on the frequency of dementia in the Stockholm district of Kungsholmen to analyze the development of dementia. As part of the first study, the so-called "Kungsholmen Project", 1,700 people aged at least 75 years between 1987 and 1989 were interviewed about possible dementia diseases. The second study with 1,575 participants over the age of 75 followed from 2001 to 2004. The researchers compared, among other things, the total number of diseases, the death rate and the average lifespan after diagnosis of dementia in the two studies.

Number of dementia diseases stable over the past 20 years. In the second study, the researchers observed a slight increase in the total number of dementia diseases to 298 cases (from 225 cases in the first study) and also a minimal increase in the proportion of dementia patients the respective sample from 17.5 percent to 17.9 percent. But at the same time, the chances of survival for those affected have increased. Today, if treatment is started early, dementia patients can survive with their disease for significantly longer than 20 years ago. “The prevalence of dementia was stable in central Stockholm from the late 1980s to early 2000s, while the life expectancy of patients with dementia increased. These results suggest that the incidence of dementia has decreased over this period, ”the scientists write in the journal“ Neurology ”.

Gender-specific differences in dementia diseases In their investigation, the Swedish scientists also observed significant gender-specific differences in dementia diseases. In the first survey, 12.8 percent of men and 19.2 percent of women were affected by the neurodegenerative disease. The second survey showed a decrease in prevalence to 10.8 percent among men, while an increase to 20.5 percent among women. According to this, every fifth woman over the age of 75 suffered from dementia, but only around one in ten was affected by men. From the age of 85, the researchers found a significant increase in dementia diseases regardless of gender.

Positive development of lifestyle counteracts dementia Although the researchers were unable to provide any scientifically proven explanations for the causes of the stagnating number of dementia diseases in the Stockholm district of Kungsholmen, they suspect a connection with the generally positive development of lifestyle. The comparison between the samples of the two studies at hand showed, for example, that the second group had on average a significantly higher level of training. In general, some positive developments in the field of individual health promotion and prevention have been observed in Sweden in the past decades. So today much more attention is paid to a balanced diet and sufficient sporting or physical activities than 20 years ago. The age researcher and chief physician at the Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology in the Albertinen-Haus in Hamburg, Wolfgang von Renteln-Kruse, told “Welt Online” in view of the current study results from Sweden that especially with regard to vascular dementia the improved living conditions bring about a significant reduction could have.

Healthy lifestyle protects against vascular dementia Vascular dementia is usually caused by hardening of the arteries (arteriosclerosis), which in turn is associated with various risk factors such as smoking, obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure. The reduction of existing excess weight, the elimination of tobacco, sufficient exercise to stabilize the cardiovascular system and the best possible adjustment of the blood sugar level could therefore have a significant influence on the risk of atherosclerosis. The Hamburg geriatric researcher Wolfgang von Renteln-Kruse was therefore convinced that “a conscious, healthier lifestyle plays a role” in the increased life expectancy of dementia patients. In addition, there is "more and more evidence that a good setting of high blood pressure leads to a reduction in the risk of vascular dementia", the expert emphasized and added: "With the detection and treatment of risk factors for heart attack and stroke, we can cope with high Prevent probability of vascular dementia. "(Fp)

Image: Gerd Altmann / pixelio.de

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