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How diabetes, hypertension and smoking are linked to Alzheimer's

September 17, 2014
by Lois A. Bowers, Senior Editor
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Dementia risk potentially can be reduced, even in late life, by controlling diabetes and hypertension as well as quitting smoking, according to the 2014 World Alzheimer Report. For that reason, dementia prevention efforts should be integrated into global and national public health programs along with efforts to address other major noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), says Dementia and Risk Reduction: An Analysis of Protective and Modifiable Factors.

“From a public health perspective, it is important to note that most of the risk factors for dementia overlap with those for the other major NCDs,” says Marc Wortmann, executive director of Alzheimer's Disease International (ADI). ADI commissioned a team of researchers, led by Martin Prince, MD, from King’s College London, to produce the report, which is being published in conjunction with World Alzheimer’s Day, Sept. 21, and as a part of World Alzheimer’s Month.

Diabetes can increase the risk of dementia by 50 percent, according to the report, which states that because obesity and lack of physical activity are risk factors for diabetes and hypertension, they also should be targeted. The report also strongly links smoking cessation with a reduction in dementia risk. For example, studies of dementia incidence among people aged 65 or more years demonstrate that former smokers have a risk of dementia similar to those who never have smoked, whereas those who continue to smoke are at a much higher risk.

“While age and genetics are part of the disease’s risk factors, not smoking, eating more healthily, getting some exercise and having a good education, coupled with challenging your brain to ensure it is kept active, can all play a part in minimizing your chances of developing dementia,” says Graham Stokes, PhD, global director of dementia care for Bupa, an international provider of specialist dementia care. “People who already have dementia, or signs of it, can also do these things, which may help to slow the progression of the disease.”

Read about the 2013 World Alzheimer Report.

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