For some time now health leaders have been warning Australians about the increasing incidence of dementia diagnoses occurring among our older population.However recent research shows that we have even more reason for concern with dementia now overtaking coronary heart disease as the leading cause of illness, injury and premature death in older Australians.
The findings were detailed in a report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) which found that among people aged 65 years and older, dementia was responsible for almost 230,000 years of healthy life lost. This equates to a 62 percent increase since 2011, the report found.
The AIHW estimates that there were around 401,300 people living with dementia in Australia in 2022, including 251,700 women and 149,600 men. This was four percent more than in 2021.
The AIHW says the most common types of dementia are Alzheimer’s disease, which accounts for around 60 percent of cases, vascular dementia and frontotemporal dementia.
Without a major research breakthrough, the number of people with dementia in Australia is expected to more than double to 849,300 by 2058.
On the brighter sideHowever, the news isn’t all bad, with experts all over the world doing what they can to understand more about the condition.
In recent months, the Neuroscience faculty at King’s College London has established a blood-based test that could be used to predict the risk of Alzheimer’s disease up to 3.5 years before clinical diagnosis.
The news comes on top of advice from a special Dementia and Alzheimer’s research panel operating out of St Vincent’s Hospital that says that although there are not yet curative treatments available for dementia, increasing evidence points to the significant potential benefits of targeted strategies for its prevention.
Indeed, recent studies suggest that up to 40 percent of dementia cases could be prevented or delayed, the panel reported.
This is supported by the World Health Organisation guidelines that provide evidence-based recommendations on lifestyle behaviours and interventions to delay or prevent cognitive decline and dementia.
Delay or PreventThese include being physically active, non-smoking, eating a balanced diet, only drinking alcohol in moderation, regularly engaging in cognitive training, being socially active, looking after your weight and managing any hypertension, diabetes and cholesterol. As well as looking after your hearing, managing hearing loss and looking after your mental health.
In recent months Dementia Australia has released a free mobile app called BrainTrack, which helps people to privately monitor and better understand suspected changes in their cognition over time.
The app helps individuals explore common cognitive concerns and provides brain health information through fun, travel-themed games that have been adapted from validated cognitive testing.
While not intended to replace a formal cognitive assessment, the app supports the early identification of cognitive changes over time that may warrant further testing with a GP.