Approximately 35% of dementia cases could be prevented by adopting a healthy lifestyle.

This conclusion was reported last July in London at the International Conference of the Association of Alzheimer's Disease 2017 (AAIC 2017) and simultaneously published in The Lancet.

The group of 24 experts forming the The Lancet International Commission on Dementia Prevention, Intervention and Care, which is behind this meta-analysis, identified and measured the impact of 9 modifiable risk factors that impact an individual’s risk across its lifespan.

Nine risk factors

According to the Commission’s report, one could reduce its risk of suffering from dementia by following these recommendations:

Adding up the risk

Most of these risk factors are not new to specialists. However, they can now estimate how each of them  accounts for the occurrence of dementia. And they can add up to each other.

Therefore, by taking care of hearing loss, hypertension and obesity, a person would reduce its risk of developing dementia by 20%.

As another example, someone not smoking, diabetes and depression while practising physical activities and relying on a solid social network, will reduce its risk by 15%.

It is important to consider these factors regardless of someone’s age for one simple reason: they are all modifiable, whether by changing a lifestyle or by using a treatment.

Therefore, the panel of experts behind this study "vigorously" recommends hypertension to be treated in middle-aged and older people in order to reduce the incidence of the disease.

It also recommends focusing on childhood education, to address each condition at their onset, and to promote a healthy lifestyle in order not only to reduce the number of cases, but also to delay the onset of dementia.

“Effective dementia prevention and care could transform the future for society and vastly improve living and dying for individuals with dementia and their families,” said Lon Schneider, MD, from the University of Southern California and co-author of the Commission.

“Acting now on what we already know can make this difference happen,” he added.

Other factors may also contribute

The authors of the study pointed out that other potential risk factors were not included in the list due to a lack of data.

These potential risk factors are:

- Dietary factors

- Alcohol use

- Visual impairment

- Air pollution

- Sleep

The estimates of the group might therefore rise well above 35% one day, once other factors are added to the list.

That said, reducing right now by 10 % the prevalence of 7 of the 9 risk factors from the actual list could potentially reduce by 1,000,000 the number of cases, stated the Commission experts.

The group added that any intervention delaying dementia by a year would decrease the number of people living with dementia globally by 9 million in 2050. For now, it is estimated that 115 million will live with dementia.

The number of people living with a form of dementia is currently estimated at 47 million.

To access the Commission publications, follow this link.