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Dementia Not an Epidemic, Says Study


A study conducted by experts from Cambridge University in the UK, Stockholm, Madrid, Bonn and Gothenburg has revealed that dementia is not as big a global epidemic as it is portrayed to be and a number of previous dementia sufferers are now stabilizing in western European countries, the Guardian reports.

The experts pointed out that the data being used for citing the number of people with dementia is from the 1980s and is now out of date.

"These old studies support the idea of a continuing 'dementia epidemic', but are now out of date because of changes in life expectancy, living conditions and improvements in health care and lifestyle," said lead author Carol Brayne, professor of public health medicine at the Cambridge Institute of Public Health, reports the Guardian.

After assessing five recent large studies carried out in Sweden, the Netherlands, the UK and Spain that all compare the numbers of people with dementia and those being diagnosed over two different points in time, the experts found that four out of the five studies showed no increase in the prevalence of dementia over the past two or three decades.

The study in the UK, actually showed a drop in the numbers. The study done in Zaragoza, Spain also showed a drop, but only in men.

"Incidence and deaths from major cardiovascular diseases have decreased in high-income countries since the 1980s," Brayne said, according to the Guardian. "We are now potentially seeing the results of improvements in prevention and treatment of key cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure and cholesterol reflected in the risk of developing dementia."

However, dementia is still a major issue for the NHS because of the growing number of elderly people.

"It is important to remember that the number of people over age 85 is the fastest growing age demographic, with about 40 percent currently estimated to be affected by dementia," said Cambridge co-author Yu-Tzu Wu, according to the Guardian.

According to the Guardian, Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of the Alzheimer's Society, said the problems caused by dementia are here to stay.

"While this study is welcome in showing that the percentage of people in particular age groups developing dementia could be getting smaller, the overall number of people with dementia is still set to increase as more people live into their 80s and 90s," he said.

"With no cure, few effective treatments and an economic impact exceeding that of cancer or heart disease, dementia remains the most critical health and social care challenge facing the UK."

However, the authors of the study are convinced of the "relatively optimistic" view and stressed on the need for efforts to be put into research to prevent dementia by improving health.

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