By Gerald Quigly | Community Pharmacist & Herbalist
The number of people living with dementia worldwide is forecast to nearly triple to 153 million by 2050. In 2023, there are more than 400,000 Australians living with dementia as it continues to dominate as the second leading cause of death in Australia and the leading cause of death for women.
There are also more than 28,650 people with younger onset dementia (this can include people in their 30s, 40s and 50s), expected to rise to more than 42,400 people by 2058. Experts have said it presents a major and rapidly growing threat to future health and social care systems in every community, country and continent and combating the issue starts with making positive lifestyle choices and being aware of not only dementia but the entire group of issues to do with brain health such as Alzheimer’s disease and Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), which can be regarded as the early stage of Alzheimer’s disease.
Recent studies indicate that people with MCI are more likely to develop dementia, especially Alzheimer’s disease and it is currently estimated that people with MCI have a 3 to 5 times increased risk of developing dementia than others their age. Whilst there may not yet be a cure to these health issues, lifestyle factors play a large role in how illness and disease progresses and to what extent.
As we get older it is normal to become a little more forgetful. But if you have noticed your memory is not as sharp as it used to be, Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) might be the lingering cause. MCI is a condition which develops when a person’s memory declines more than what is expected for that person’s age or education, and can be an early stage of Alzheimer’s disease between the expected cognitive decline of normal ageing and the more serious decline of dementia, also easily mistaken for ‘forgetfulness’ as a part of normal ageing.
Lifestyle choices play a big part in maintaining our health as we age and can support brain health immensely.
Globally, about 16% of the population over 70 years old experiences some type of Mild Cognitive Impairment. However, there is a series of simple lifestyle choices we can make to ultimately reduce the risk.
- It is extremely important to keep a positive mindset
- Engage in a range of activities on all social, physical, and intellectual fronts for optimal brain stimulation. This includes regular engagement with others, appropriate and comfortable exercise, a focus on Mediterranean-style food options like fish, leafy greens and berries and even taking a medical nutrition drink like Souvenaid that has a combination of fatty acids, vitamins, and nutrients.
What are the warning signs of MCI?
- The inability to make decisions or feeling incredibly overwhelmed by them
- Slower memory recall, and forgetfulness when it comes to remembering dates and events or questions shortly after being asked
Globally recognised specialist in geriatric medicine and Fellow of the Australian and New Zealand Society for Geriatric Medicine, Associate Professor Michael Woodward AM says Alzheimer’s disease can be managed with a combination of lifestyle changes and medications: “Acting early by recognising symptoms in the early stage of Alzheimer’s disease and speaking to a GP or pharmacist can ensure the condition is correctly identified and managed appropriately to prolong its potential progression into dementia.” In a survey commissioned by
Nutricia amongst average Australians aged 40-74 revealed almost half (45%) have never heard of mild cognitive impairment, yet encouragingly two thirds of those surveyed do place
brain health in their top 3 health priorities, behind heart health and physical health.
Rising rates of dementia prompt us to not only understand the issue at hand but in way where we can work around early detection and intervention, which understandably should be our top priority when it comes to brain health and Australia’s vast ageing population.
About Gerald Quigley:
Working as a practising community pharmacist and accredited herbalist for over 50 years, Gerald advocates promoting health & wellness from a holistic perspective. He believes in empowering each person to make sensible health choices and improve quality of life, especially with ageing. “To empower each person to take responsibility for their health, and to work together with their health care team to ensure the best health outcomes.” You can catch Gerlad Quigley on his regular radio sessions on the Nine radio network and syndicated stations across Australia or on the ‘Ask’ segment on the House of wellness.
Association between healthy lifestyle and memory decline in older adults: 10 year, population based, prospective cohort study, BMJ 2023;380:e072691: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/ bmj-2022-072691
Dementia statistics, Dementia Australia March 2023: https://www.dementia.org.au/statistics
Mild cognitive impairment, Dementia Australia: https://www.dementia.org.au/about-dementia-and-memory-loss/about-dementia/memory-loss/mild-cognitive-impairment