With the number of dementia cases expected to grow, an international research group is leading a world-first effort to determine how to prevent dementia in high risk individuals. Researchers will use new electronic and web-based interventions to target dementia risk factors in 40,000 people aged 50 to 80 years. These risk factors include hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, smoking, depression, physical inactivity and obesity.
“Intervening early is critical to the success of averting the onset of dementia,” says research leader, A/Prof Sharon Naismith of the Brain and Mind Research Institute at the University of Sydney. “Many preclinical, neurodegenerative changes in the brain occur for at least a decade before dementia symptoms become fully apparent. Therefore, it is vital that we address dementia risk factors before people show signs of brain degeneration and cognitive impairment that are on the slippery slope to dementia.”
The researchers are hoping these interventions will slow or delay the onset of dementia in the participants, but those who begin showing signs of cognitive impairment will be offered more intensive, targeted treatments.
“Electronic health programs have several advantages over traditional face to face public health interventions,” says Dr Naismith. “They have a record of success, and people prefer them because of their anonymity and their capacity to be used privately. This will improve our capacity to reach and assist many more people with preventive and treatment opportunities.”