Latest research led by the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA) at UNSW Sydney may help in developing dementia-prevention strategies globally.
The research, which investigated associations between risk factors and late-life cognitive performance on a global scale, used data from nearly 50,000 older individuals across 15 countries.
Lead author on the research published today in PLOS Medicine, Dr Darren Lipnicki, said the study is unique in examining risk factors for cognitive decline across many diverse international sources, meaning the results can be generalised on a global scale.
“Improving the evidence base for modifiable risk factors is a research priority,” said Dr Lipnicki, who is Study Co-ordinator of CHeBA’s COSMIC (Cohort Studies of Memory in an International Consortium).
“Although no new risk factors were examined, the demonstration that certain risk factors are common across diverse populations is a significant new contribution,” said Dr Lipnicki.
“Preventing or controlling diabetes and stroke, not smoking, and increased levels of education and physical activity are important across all populations,” he said.
“This may help reduce the global burden of cognitive decline and dementia,” said Dr Lipnicki.
Dementia is a worldwide problem that continues to grow. There are no effective treatments so identifying risk factors that can be avoided or modified may help to slow or prevent cognitive decline and the development of dementia.
Co-author on the research and Co-Director of CHeBA, Professor Perminder Sachdev, explained that the study was the first to comprehensively examine and compare the effects of risk factors on cognitive decline between white people and Asian people.
Modifiable factors found to be associated with cognitive performance or decline included education, smoking, physical activity, diabetes and stroke. The research found that compared to white people, Asian people had stronger associations between smoking and poorer cognition, and between diabetes and cognitive decline. Countries involved in the research were Australia, Brazil, Cuba, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Singapore, Spain, South Korea, The Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Professor Sachdev said the finding of differences between these groups suggest that modifiable risk factors such as smoking and diabetes differ in their impact in different ethno-regional groups.
“Diabetes appears to have a greater negative effect in Asian populations, which is of concern considering the prevalence of diabetes is rising in many countries,” he said.
“The population-specific effects would help in developing dementia-prevention strategies in diverse settings around the world,” said Professor Sachdev.
Established in 2012, COSMIC is one of four international consortia led by CHeBA to investigate risk and protective factors for dementia incidence and healthy brain ageing world-wide. Support for the consortia’s research is driven by CHeBA’s major philanthropic initiative, The Dementia Momentum.