One-third of dementia burden may be preventable

Smiling old lady

A new report shows how vascular diseases and risk factors such as smoking and obesity may significantly contribute to dementia

“Dementia is a serious and growing health problem in Australia and many other countries, and previous AIHW reports have shown that dementia accounts for 3.4% of the total ‘burden of disease’ in Australia,” says AIHW spokesperson Dr Lynelle Moon.

“While there is no known cure, there are a range of potentially preventable factors that contribute to the risk of dementia,” Dr Moon says.

‘These include several vascular diseases and risk factors, including stroke, diabetes, and chronic kidney disease, as well as smoking, physical inactivity, high blood pressure in mid-life and obesity in mid-life.’

Today’s report, Contribution of vascular diseases and risk factors to the burden of dementia in Australia: Australian Burden of Disease Study 2011, shows that about 30% of the total dementia burden is due to vascular diseases and risk factors, with this proportion increasing with age.

“The risk factors included behaviours and metabolic risks,” Dr Moon says.

The behavioural risk factor contributing most to the dementia burden is physical inactivity (contributing 8% of dementia burden), followed by tobacco use (5%).

“High blood pressure and obesity in mid-life were the two metabolic factors that contributed the greatest burden, at 6% each,” Dr Moon says.

Among vascular diseases that pose a risk, chronic kidney disease contributes the greatest burden (8%), followed by stroke (7%), diabetes (5%) and atrial fibrillation (5%)

Among people aged 65 and over, dementia is the second leading cause of total burden (almost 8%) and the leading cause of non-fatal burden (10%).

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