Individual Risk of Dementia is Falling, but an Aging Population Means that a Greater Incidence of Dementia Lies Ahead

The risk of suffering many of the most common age-related conditions is trending downwards over time, thanks to improvements in medical technology and public health, but the ever increasing size of the older segments of the population means that the incidence of those age-related conditions will nonetheless grow over time. Growth in the number of older people outweighs the reduced risk for any given individual, or at least this will be the case without much faster progress towards effective therapies than has taken place over the past few decades.

This is of great concern for those who focus more on socioeconomics than on health. The economic stress placed on centralized, government-run medical systems by this trend is perhaps one of the stronger motivations driving large-scale investment into research and development. Evidently still not strong enough, given that intervening in the aging process remains a tiny field in comparison to the rest of medicine, but we can hope that this will change given concrete results from the first rejuvenation therapies.

Across men and women and across most age groups, there has been a reduction in the prevalence of dementia over the past ten years when compared to 2008 estimates. The number of people living with dementia in the European Union (EU27) is estimated to be 7.8 million and in European countries represented by AE members, 9.7 million. Compared to its earlier estimates, this constitutes a significant reduction from 8.7 million for the EU27 and from 10.9 million for the broader European region. Women continue to be disproportionately affected by dementia with 6.6 million women and 3.1 million men living with dementia in Europe. The numbers of people with dementia in Europe will almost double by 2050 increasing to 14.3 million in the European Union and 18.8 million in the wider European region.

"It is promising to see that healthier lifestyles, better education, and improved control of cardiovascular risk factors seem to have contributed to a reduction of the prevalence of dementia. However, our report also demonstrates that the number of people living with the condition is set to increase substantially in the years ahead, which will only place greater pressure on care and support services unless better ways of treating and preventing dementia are identified. If people with dementia, their families and carers are to receive the high-quality and person-centred care they need, governments must ensure their health and care systems are ready to meet this demand and greater investments in research into the treatment and prevention of dementia are needed."



This is interesting, because dementia has been notoriously resistant to attempts to develop disease-modifying treatments. Furthermore, obesity is a major risk factor for dementia, so all else being equal we should expect age-adjusted morbidity to be increasing with the obesity rate.

It's surprising to me, then, that we should find that somehow we've accidentally stumbled upon a way to delay the onset of dementia when we still have no way to slow its progression. Apparently this is a side effect of treatments for cardiovascular disease; should we be using these drugs to treat dementia as well?

Posted by: Brandon at February 26th, 2020 11:44 PM

All these diseases of aging seem to be linked to senescent cells.

Posted by: Tj Green at February 29th, 2020 8:59 PM
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