A Provocation launched today explores potential savings to the state if we were able to intervene successfully on the risk factors that cause dementia- these include physical activity, smoking, obesity and depression.
The International Longevity Centre–UK (1) – the leading think tank on ageing and longevity – with Improving Care have modelled the impact of matching best practice interventions from global case studies on reducing six risk factors for dementia.
We estimate that over a 27 year period (2013-2040) this could prevent nearly 3 million people developing dementia in the UK – and would reduce the costs to the state in the UK by £42.9 billion between now and 2040 (minus any associated costs of intervention)(2).
For example, if we managed to successfully reduce depression by 22.5% by 2040 (best practice intervention) this could prevent 22,000 people developing dementia and save the state £308million. Similarly, if we managed to reduce type 2 diabetes by 58% through intensive lifestyle interventions, through weight reduction and exercise, we could potentially prevent 40,000 people developing dementia by 2040 and save the state £560million.
This Provocation links to the key messages of a study published in the Lancet Neurology today that argues one in three cases of dementia could be avoided by changes in lifestyle.
Baroness Greengross, Chief Executive of the ILC-UK and Chair of the Commission, said:
“As Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Dementia, and Chief Executive of ILC-UK, I am pleased that we are finally developing a credible evidence base to make the case for prevention and risk reduction for dementia. So few people are aware that there are actually lifestyle decisions you can make which could reduce your risk of dementia, such as stopping smoking, physical activity and a healthy diet.
With no cure for dementia, we need to do everything we can to reduce our lifetime risk of dementia and we need to make sure that people understand that dementia need not be an inevitable part of ageing, we can all help ourselves by looking after our heart health and in turn this should improve our brain health.”
This provocation aims to demonstrate what could be possible if we do try to tackle our lifestyle factors and when it comes to dementia arguably every number of cases which can be prevented must count.
Kieran Brett, one of the authors of the report, said:
“The priority that the Government has given to finding a cure for dementia is to be welcomed. This report today shows that alongside finding a cure, we can also develop a strong, evidence-based prevention strategy which will alleviate suffering and save £42.9 billion pounds by 2040”.
Dr Matt Norton, Head of Policy for Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity, said:
“The research evidence on reducing the risk of developing some forms of dementia is growing. The recent Blackfriars Consensus Statement, signed by experts in the field including Alzheimer’s Research UK, has paved the way for dementia risk reduction to form part of our approach to public health. Now is the time to start championing the message that ‘what is good for the heart is good for the brain’ and this analysis from Improving Care and the ILC hints at what could be achieved. The potential impact is great, but we need further research to understand just how far we can go in preventing dementia and to help people take control of their own risk.”