Dementia rates falling thanks to smoking reductions, report finds

Henry Bodkin
Dementia currently affects 850,000 people in the UK - Getty Images Contributor

The risk of developing dementia is falling, thanks to lifestyle improvements such as reductions in smoking, new research has found.

Researchers have said that while the overall number of cases is rising due to the population living longer, an individual’s chances of having the disease is going down.

A review of five studies including nearly 60,000 people across Europe and the US found that rates are declining by up to 15 per cent every 10 years.

Dementia currently affects 850,000 people in the UK and is the leading cause of death.

Prof Albert Hofman, who led the research at the Harvard School of Public Health, said: “We know that recent decades have seen a radical decline in smoking rates for men.

While many people may have been persuaded to stop smoking due to an increased risk of cancer or heart disease, it is also a key risk factor for dementia.

“With other dementia risk factors such as obesity and diabetes on the rise, this apparent decline in dementia rates may not continue for long."

A recent poll conducted by the Alzheimer’s Research UK, at whose conference the new results were presented, found just a third of people think it is possible to reduce their risk of developing dementia while 77 per cent of people think it’s possible to reduce their risk of heart disease.

Prof Alina Solomon, from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, told the gathering: “In future, prevention strategies that combine drug treatments and lifestyle changes may be the most effective strategy to limit the impact of dementia.

“While new drugs take many years to develop, lifestyle changes are available to us all.” “We’re working to identify diet, physical activity and brain training programmes that will be most impact on dementia risk.”