Dementia included in the new prevention agenda

07 Mar 2019

When the NHS released its Long Term Plan at the start of the year, there was little specific mention of neurology as a whole, but there was a welcome focus given to dementia.As Jeremy Hughes, CEO of Alzheimer’s Society tweeted,

'The #NHSLongTermPlan promises new hope that people with dementia – the UK’s biggest killer – will at last gain parity with people with other diseases from our health and care services.’

Then, on 14th February, Public Health England and NHS England announced their plans to lead a 40-organisation-strong coalition in preventing cardiovascular disease (CVD), and so dementia features again.Where? Well, perhaps is isn’t obvious, at first glance, but when we look a little closer...The government’s press release announced that the coalition has launched ‘the first ever national ambitions to improve the detection and treatment of atrial fibrillation, high blood pressure and high cholesterol (A-B-C) – the major causes of cardiovascular disease (CVD).’ Detection and treatment of these three conditions can prevent, or delay the onset of, CVD.CVD shares these same risk factors with vascular dementia (Alzheimer’s Society), whilst the link between CVD itself and dementia has been increasingly researched in the past decade, leading the British Heart Foundation to state online,

‘It’s widely accepted that risk factors for cardiovascular disease contribute to both vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s... Everyone who has vascular dementia will have at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease.’

Findings, such as those presented at Neuroscience 2018, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the world's largest source of emerging news about brain science and health, strongly suggest that high blood pressure and heart disease both contribute to the break down in blood vessels in the brain which have been linked with both Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia. An article outlining these findings echoed this again, saying

‘there is also strong evidence to suggest that vascular disorders such as high blood pressure and heart disease play a major role’ as noted by researchers such as L Kuller (2016) and Suemoto et al (2009).

[caption id="attachment_1133" align="alignnone" width="700"]Health Matters Health Matters[/caption]The NHS Long Term Plan outlines its target to prevent 150,000 heart attacks, strokes and cases of dementia within 10 years. There is significant crossover between all three conditions, with Alzheimer’s Society reporting that ‘A person who has had a stroke, or who has diabetes or heart disease, is approximately twice as likely to develop vascular dementia.’It is expected that achieving this coalition’s ambitions to prevent CVD would accomplish the LTP’s target, given both cardiovascular disease’s link with all three life-threatening conditions, and the cross-over between the conditions themselves.The coalition is urging people to take increased responsibility for their own health and to ‘know their numbers’ as CEO of Public Health England Duncan Selbie put it.

‘Thousands of heart attacks and strokes can be prevented by more people knowing their blood pressure and cholesterol numbers and by seeking help early.’

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said, in the same vein, ‘I want to help more people take the time out to protect their future health and get checked.’With prevention of dementia high on our agenda, we welcome this important step towards preventative care, and with more and more evidence of shared risk factors amongst some of our most common and increasingly prevalent diseases, are keen to encourage personal responsibility for healthy lifestyles and an increasing awareness of our own bodies.

Know your risk factors

Common shared risk factors across CVD, dementia and stroke include:
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
NIH Research Matters

: Risk factors for heart disease linked to dementia’ (2017) Reuters: ‘Risk factors for heart disease and stroke also tied to Alzheimer’s’ (2017)Lifestyle risk factors for dementia:

  • smoking
  • obesity
  • physical inactivity
  • not receiving early support for depression
  • Diabetes
  • Social isolation
  • High blood pressure
  • Mid-life hearing loss
  • Failing to complete secondary education
Lancet Commission 2018

[caption id="attachment_1130" align="alignnone" width="700"]Health Matters Infographic Health Matters[/caption]

Promoting prevention, supporting management

Led by proactive clinicians determined to see improvement in the way we prevent, diagnose and manage dementias, Dementia Academy supports healthcare professionals with the latest tools, resources and courses to do just that.