For years, physicians and researchers have warned against the growing threat of dementia. Currently, some 50 million people around the globe live with the disease, and the numbers show no sign of slowing. By 2050, the World Health Organization estimates that the total number of dementia cases could grow as high as 150 million. Ordinary Americans are hearing these reports and watching their elders live with the disease. As a result, those words of warning seem to be hitting home. However, a recent report shows that many Americans don’t understand their dementia risk. To make matters worse, they also don’t know how to reduce their risk of developing the disease.
Many American Overestimate Their Dementia Risk
According to a new study published in the medical journal JAMA, 48.5% of surveyed adults between 50-64 said they believed they were at least “somewhat” likely to develop dementia. On the surface, this result seems to demonstrate an increased awareness of dementia in general. However, it also reveals a critical misunderstanding. Globally, the World Health Organization estimates that 5-8% of people over 60 have dementia at any given time. That total percentage will likely grow as the world’s population becomes older in the coming years. But even as the rate increases, most survey respondents who believe they’ll develop dementia likely never will.
While nearly half of survey respondents believe they’ll develop dementia, it doesn’t seem to affect their behavior. This disconnect further supports the study’s findings that many people misunderstand the cause of dementia and their personal risk.
Dementia Risk Not Discussed with Doctors
Study authors also reported that respondents placed greater importance on mental rather than physical health when determining their dementia risk.
“Those with fair to poor physical health did not accurately perceive that their likelihood of developing dementia was potentially higher than respondents with very good or excellent physical health. In contrast, fair to poor mental health had the largest association with perceived likelihood of dementia, even though less evidence suggests that poor mental health is causally linked with dementia.”
Also, respondents placed greater importance on preventative strategies that aren’t evidence-based. For example, “31.6% endorsed using fish oil or ω-3 fatty acids, and 39.2% used other vitamins or supplements” like ginkgo biloba or vitamin E. The study points out that managing chronic conditions like diabetes or cardiovascular disease could reduce dementia risk. However, only “5.2% of respondents had discussed dementia prevention with their physician.”
While there are currently no dementia treatments available, this knowledge gap could have consequences should that ever change. Study authors conclude their report by saying:
“Adults in middle age may not accurately estimate their risk of developing dementia, which could lead to both overuse and underuse if preclinical dementia treatments become available. Policy and physicians should emphasize current evidence-based strategies of managing lifestyle and chronic medical conditions to reduce the risk of dementia.”
Reduce Dementia Risk by Focusing on Total Health
As we’ve discussed in previous posts, the most effective strategy for reducing dementia risk is to focus on overall health. That means improving sleep quality, reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease, and getting plenty of exercise.
Dementia does present a clear and present danger for American seniors and older people around the globe. However, misunderstanding the risk won’t help anyone. This new study underscores the importance of becoming educated on the subject of dementia as well as seeking out the advice of our doctors.
About Generations Home Care
Generations Home Care personalized in-home care and support services help those recovering from illness, injury, or surgery, living with a chronic disease, or dealing with the natural process of aging. We help people live a fuller, healthier, and independent life.
We offer levels of care ranging from companionship, to respite for the primary family caregiver, to homemaking services, to assistance with activities of daily living, to Alzheimer’s and dementia care. Generations Home Care takes a holistic approach and emphasizes a consistent, client-centered plan of care.
Our Specialty Services Include:
- Rehab or hospital-to-home programs for safe discharge.
- Short-term post-operative care during recovery periods.
- Non-medical life management services for people with chronic conditions.
- Veteran’s connection to care program.
- Live-in services and couples care.
If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you, contact us today at 602-595-HOME (4663) or by filling out the contact form on our website.