Findings published in the journal Lancet Neurology suggest that three in 10 cases of Alzheimer’s could be prevented if people led healthier lifestyles – not smoking, exercising regularly and eating a balanced diet.
Keeping to a normal weight and maintaining low blood pressure are factors also thought to significantly slow down the rising number of people developing the disease.
Ultimately, if more people made an effort to really look after their health, researches believe up to 200,000 fewer people in the UK will have Alzheimer’s by 2050.
This means about a third of those destined to get the disease could be saved.
In the study, researchers from Cambridge University, Kings College London and San Fransisco explored seven risk factors that can contribute to Alzheimer’s. These were physical activity, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, low educational attainment, smoking and depression.
It was found that lack of physical activity contributed to the largest proportion of cases of Alzheimer’s in the UK.
Worldwide, low educational attainment was a core influence in about 20% of cases, whilst smoking and depression were considered to be linked to one in 10 cases.
Researchers claim that reducing the relative risk of each factor by 10% could be enough to lead to nine million (8.5%) fewer cases by 2050.
Carol Brayne – lead author of the study and a professor at Cambridge University’s Institute of Public Health – said:
“Although there’s no single way to prevent dementia we may be able to take steps to reduce our risk of developing [it] at an older age.
“We know what many of these factors are, and that they are often linked. Simply tackling physical inactivity, for example, will reduce levels of obesity, hypertension and diabetes, and prevent some people from developing dementia.”
There are currently over 820,000 people living with dementia in the UK, and there is concern that an ageing population will mean more and more people may be affected as time goes on.