HOPE Foundation News March 2016

Posted by on 13 March 2016

It is not often we get good news about dementia. Several positive items have been reported this year.

Results from the Framingham a study1 – a long running population based research project, show a 20% decrease in the incidence of dementia per decade over the last 40 years. In real terms this means there has been a reduction from 3.6 to 2.0 people per 100 over the age of 60 who develop dementia. Several other studies have shown similar trends but it has been hard to get good supportive evidence because of the difficulty of doing these projects over decades.

Dr Maree Todd,
Clinical Director,
Older People’s Health,
Auckland District Health Board.
Chair of the Foundation

maree todd

The age of diagnosis also went up from 80-85. Why this change has occurred is not so obvious. It seems to be related to better education, a better lifestyle and plausibly reduced risk factors for vascular disease such as heart attacks and stroke although this does not explain all the change. It is good news for individuals as the risk of dementia may be going down and occurs later. However because of the total number of older people is going up (this is good news – think of the alternative!) there will be more people overall living with dementia.This will require us all to think creatively about how we develop supportive age and dementia friendly communities.

Dementia is strongly related to a history of stroke and in the Auckland District Health Board2 population the numbers of people having strokes has been going down quite significantly.

There is further good news in that many of the risk factors for both vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease can be modified and so we need to have strong focus on prevention. In general what is good for your heart, is also good for your brain.

The United Kingdom has been a leader in dementia care and has just published the Prime Minister’s Challenge on Dementia 20203. This is good news for New Zealand as we can use this document to help bolster our own plans. The focus areas are on risk reduction ,starting with health checks from the age of 40, health and care of those with dementia, awareness and social action and research.

People living with dementia tell us that they need better support after the diagnosis, they want to live at home for longer and they need the opportunity to plan ahead at the right time by setting up Enduring Powers of Attorney and doing advanced care planning. Do your loved ones know your wishes if you were unable to decide for yourself?

So what can you do?

  • Ensure you and your family stay physically active.
  • Adopt a healthy diet and maintain a normal weight
  • Stay mentally and socially active
    Education is critical: keep learning new things (use it
    or lose it!)
  • Keep socially engaged – especially purposeful activities for and with others.
  • Look after your heart and your brain, monitor blood pressure and cholesterol, do not smoke, do not drink excessive alcohol.
  • Get checked for diabetes
  • Mind your mood – seek help for depression.
  • Get a good night’s sleep.
  • Set up an Enduring Power of Attorney
  • Talk about advance care wishes with your family at your next family dinner.

It is never too late to start doing these things but it is critically important for those between the ages of 40 and 70.

You can help the HOPE Foundation by sharing this information, helping us raise funds to support researchers, volunteering for the Friends Committee – one step to help keep your brain healthy.

  1. N Engl J Med 2016;374:523-32. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1504327
  2. Local data
  3. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/ file/505787/PM_Dementia_Acc.pdf

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You can also help by

  • Spreading the word about what we do / share this newsletter
  • Donating your time to the Friends Supporters to help with fundraising and committee work
  • Encouraging your children and grandchildren to invest in their futures by donating time and money (a baby girl born today has a 1 in 3 chance of living to 100 , a boy 1 in 4 and is likely to be fitter and healthier–think about the implications of that)
  • Consider a bequest