The World Alzheimer Report 2023, written in journalistic style with key case studies, focuses on reducing the risk of dementia and offers a truly global insight into the ways in which dementia risk factors are experienced around the world.
The report examines the drivers behind risk reduction and provides an accessible overview of both modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors as well as the benefits of lifelong risk. Inside you will find the latest research on this topic, alongside fascinating case studies and beautiful imagery, demonstrating how dementia risk reduction expresses itself in concrete ways all over the world, with articles from South Africa, Kenya, Pakistan, Singapore, Japan, Uruguay, Colombia, and the United Kingdom.
Read about a community of centenarians living in Ogimi, Okinawa, a ‘blue zone’ village famous for its residents’ longevity, how pilchards, a small fish, could make a difference in South Africa’s dementia risk reduction effort; or why getting a hearing aid if you’re experiencing hearing loss could reduce your risk of cognitive decline.
The report also highlights global disparities in an individual’s ability and means to mitigate their risk of dementia, galvanising a call to action for governments to provide population-based systemic changes to promote risk reduction and the importance of dementia research.
Chapters included in the report:
- Physical health risks
- Brain health risks
- Environment and population
- Non-modifiable risks
- Preventative risk reduction
- Post Diagnosis Risk Reduction
Some of the key recommendations covered in the report include:
- In the absence of a cure or a treatment that is globally accessible, risk reduction remains the most feasible and proactive way to combat dementia.
- Just as there is rarely a simple answer to a complex issue, there is no magic bullet for dementia. But there are tangible steps – big and small – that individuals can take to reduce risk, and any step is better than nothing:
- Eat as healthy a diet as possible – diversify the food groups you consume and avoid ultra-processed foods.
- There are many ways to eat well; personalised diets incorporating foods that are local and affordable where you live and fit your needs are best.
- Exercise – be creative; walking, bike riding, tai chi, dancing… it all counts.
- Keep learning – challenge your brain, whether it is by picking up a new language, doing crosswords, singing…
- Pay attention to your cardiovascular health and any other chronic diseases.
- Maintain connection – humans are social animals; socialising replenishes our brain health and reduces depression and isolation.
- Pay attention to your general physical maintenance – check the health of your teeth, avoid head injury, make sure you get enough sleep, don’t smoke nor drink excessive amounts of alcohol.
- One step that has stood out as a possible game changer is getting a hearing aid for those with hearing loss, which has not only shown to slow cognitive decline but is cost effective and scalable. ADI encourages governments and healthcare systems to improve access to these devices, particularly in lower- and middle-income countries.
- Risk reduction is a lifelong endeavour and most effective when awareness and understanding of brain health begins at a young age, establishing good habits.
- Risk reduction does not end at diagnosis – people with dementia can implement healthy lifestyle changes aimed at slowing the progression of the condition. More research is needed and more should be done to ensure that people who have been diagnosed with dementia have access to education and the support they will need to modify their behaviours and to continue to live a purposeful life.
- Some risks cannot be addressed individually. Governments must address broader issues such as green spaces for safe exercise, air pollution, access to education (especially for girls), more equitable access to healthcare, and regulations/ guidance around ultra-processed foods, etc.
- Governments must provide support and incentives to people to reduce their own risk. One way is by funding community public health systems that can play an integral role in facilitating behavioural change.
- On an international level, an extension of the Global action plan on dementia beyond 2025 is needed. ADI calls on member states to bring this initiative to the WHO to ensure dementia remains a global health priority. ADI further notes that member states have already committed to risk reduction through action area 3 of the Global action plan.
- ADI calls on governments to develop robust risk reduction strategies to include in their national dementia plans, aligned with non-communicable diseases (NCD) risk reduction targets. Recognising that these conditions have shared risk factors, there is an opportunity to leverage existing awareness campaigns, and even to create new integrated ones to benefit public health.
- The risk reduction field is evolving quickly, but it is paramount to ensure diversity and inclusion in all research if we are to address dementia risk across the global community.
- ADI calls for governments to keep up the momentum and invest further in risk reduction research, driving new understanding and innovations to promote healthy ageing, including after a diagnosis.