The findings of a study from the Lancet Commission on dementia prevention, intervention and care was presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) in London. There are estimated to be 47 million people worldwide living with dementia. By 2050, 131 million people could be living with the condition.
The report says lifestyle factors can play a major role in increasing or reducing an individual's dementia risk. It details nine ‘modifiable factors’ which contribute to the risk of dementia:
Mid-life hearing loss - 9%
Failing to complete secondary education - 8%
Smoking - 5%
Depression - 4%
Physical inactivity - 3%
Social isolation - 2%
High blood pressure - 2%
Obesity - 1%
Type 2 diabetes - 1%
These modifiable risk factors add up to 35%; the remaining 65% of dementia risk is beyond the individual's control. The researchers say hearing loss in middle age can deny people a cognitively rich environment and lead to social isolation and depression, which are among other modifiable risk factors for dementia.
Lead author of the research, Professor Gill Livingston, from University College London, said: "Although dementia is diagnosed in later life, the brain changes usually begin to develop years before.
"Acting now will vastly improve life for people with dementia and their families and, in doing so, will transform the future of society."
Dr Doug Brown, director of research at Alzheimer's Society, agreed. He said: "Though it's not inevitable, dementia is currently set to be the 21st Century's biggest killer. We all need to be aware of the risks and start making positive lifestyle changes."
Over 11 million people in the UK suffer from some form of hearing loss, and around 6.7 million of this group could benefit from regularly wearing hearing aid. As is the case in most circumstances, prevention is better than cure; you can help to prevent hearing loss and damage by being mindful of your exposure to loud sounds.
It is important to protect your ears and try to limit your exposure to noisy environments, taking care to ensure that higher dB sounds are endured for as little time as possible. Visit our hearing protection page to find out more!