A series of new research studies exploring the prevalence and incidence* of dementia worldwide have today been presented (Tuesday 15 July 2014).
This is at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Copenhagen.
A review of five population studies of dementia incidence and prevalence by University of Michigan suggests the risk of developing dementia has decreased in the US, Stockholm, Rotterdam and England. Scientists suggest higher education levels and better treatment of cardiovascular disease may be improving brain health. Another study from Boston University School of Medicine, assessing participants for dementia over three decades, reported a reduction in incidence by 17, 32 and 42 per cent from the second to the fourth decade. The reduction was strongest in women and those aged 60-69.
Prevalence data taken from insurance claims by the German Center for Neurodegenerative diseases found the number of German women aged 74 and 85 with dementia declined from 2007 and 2009. Overall dementia prevalence was 1.8 per cent higher in 2008 and 3.6 per cent higher in 2007.
Other studies from Alzheimer's Disease International and the EPINEURO study in Colombia reported cases of dementia in developing countries were hugely underestimated.
Dr Doug Brown, Director of Research and Development at Alzheimer's Society said:
'Over the last decade, the message that what is good for your heart is good for your head has empowered people to reduce their risk of dementia through healthy living. This along with better heart health and education is clearly helping to reduce dementia worldwide.
'While this is good news, we must not forget that 44 million people still have dementia globally, living with the challenges the condition presents every day. It is also important to note that other risk factors like obesity are in fact rising, so we can't say whether this trend will continue. With no cure, few effective treatments and the condition costing our economy more than cancer or heart disease, we can't afford to rest on our laurels. Dementia is still the biggest health and social care challenge facing us. More research is needed to uncover the mysteries behind the cause of dementia and to tackle the condition by finding a cure.'
*Prevalence is the number of people currently with a condition in a region, and incidence is the number of new cases in a region.
Read our factsheet: Am I at risk of developing dementia?