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Fewer new cases of dementia in western industrialized countries
Reports of examinations have been published repeatedly in recent years, which have concluded that the number of people with dementia continues to increase. But researchers from Leipzig have now published a study that shows that there are fewer new cases of dementia in western industrialized countries.
More than one and a half million Germans have dementia
According to the German Alzheimer Society, almost 1.6 million people with dementia currently live in this country; two thirds of them are affected by Alzheimer's disease. In recent years, it has been repeatedly forecast that the number of people affected will continue to increase - and not only in Germany. Due to the demographic development, experts assume that by 2030 more than 74 million people worldwide will suffer from dementia. However, researchers from Leipzig are now reporting that the number of new cases of dementia is declining - at least in some industrialized countries.
Trend towards falling new cases of dementia
Health experts say that dementia is one of the most serious diseases in old age.
Scientists from the Medical Faculty of the University of Leipzig are now demonstrating a trend towards falling new cases of dementia in western industrialized countries.
This means that people who are 85 years old are less likely to develop dementia than those who reached the age of 85 a generation earlier, according to a statement from the university.
Changes in the rate of new cases of dementia therefore demonstrate above all that the risk of developing dementia can be influenced. Prevention therefore seems possible.
The results of the scientific work were published in the journal "Clinical Epidemiology".
Living conditions can vary widely
In order to arrive at their results, the Leipzig researchers summarized current studies from industrialized nations in a meta-analysis, which examined differences in dementia rates in comparable samples at least ten years apart.
The data synthesis of seven identified studies showed a positive development in the incidence rates - at least in western industrialized countries, specifically France, Great Britain, the Netherlands and the USA.
In contrast, however, was the development in a Japanese study: There was even an increase in dementia cases.
Accordingly, it can be assumed that trends in the incidence rates of dementia do not develop uniformly in the industrialized nations.
"Even in industrialized countries, life circumstances and experiences can vary greatly over the course of a lifetime and thus influence the development trends of dementia differently," says Dr. Susanne Röhr from the Institute for Social Medicine, Occupational Medicine and Public Health (ISAP).
"And this despite the overall very favorable living conditions that usually characterize high-income countries," said the study author.
"However, it is still too early to conclude, as very little knowledge is available for other regions."
The risk of illness can be influenced by a healthy lifestyle
As it says in the communication, changes in the incidence of dementia prove above all that the risk of developing dementia can be influenced.
The downward trend in western industrialized countries is mainly attributed to increased education and more complex professional requirements, as well as better care for cardiovascular diseases and other chronic diseases.
"More education and demanding professional activities increase the brain's resilience to dementia," explains Prof. Dr. Steffi Riedel-Heller, director of the ISAP at the University of Leipzig.
Likewise, diabetes or hypertension, which are closely related to dementia, can be better treated today.
In addition, everyone can do something to prevent dementia and Alzheimer's.
Basically: "A healthy lifestyle with lots of exercise, mental and social activity, no smoking and a balanced diet not only helps prevent cardiovascular diseases, but also dementia," says Riedel-Heller.
Dementia is not curable at the moment, so prevention is of particular importance.
Absolute number of people affected increases due to longer life expectancy
According to the Leipzig experts, little research has so far been carried out to what extent cultural and ethnic factors, as well as environmental conditions or the historical context in which populations grow, determine trends in dementia development.
"However, this is a field in which more and more research activity can be observed," says Röhr.
Analyzes of temporal trends in dementia rates from different countries and cultures contribute to an understanding of the conditions under which people develop dementia - and this in turn provides information for other preventive factors.
However, the absolute number of people affected continues to rise, primarily due to the longer life expectancy. Dementia remains one of the greatest global challenges in the 21st century.
“Seeing that everyone and the community can do something is a ray of hope. So it's time to talk more about preventing dementia, ”concludes Riedel-Heller. (ad)