Half of women ‘likely to get dementia or have a stroke’

Preventative measures can 'substantially' reduce the burden of the illnesses. Picture: contributed
Preventative measures can 'substantially' reduce the burden of the illnesses. Picture: contributed
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Half of women will develop dementia, Parkinson’s disease or have a stroke in their lifetime, new research suggests.

About a third of men aged 45 and one in two women of the same age are likely to go on to be diagnosed with one of the conditions, according to a study of more than 12,000 people.

The researchers, from the University Medical Centre Rotterdam in the Netherlands, said preventative measures could “substantially” reduce the burden of the illnesses.

The findings have been published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.

The health of 12,102 people was monitored between 1990 and 2016, with all participants initially under the age of 45.

During this period 1,489 were diagnosed with dementia and 263 with parkinsonism, while 1,285 had a stroke.

The overall risk of a 45-year-old later developing one of the three conditions was 48 per cent for women and 36 per cent for men, the researchers said.

Dementia was of greatest concern for women, who at 45 years of age had a 25.9 per cent risk of going on to develop the condition, compared with 13.7 per cent for men.

Dr Carol Routledge, director of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “This large study underscores the enormous impact that neurological illnesses have across society and how women are disproportionately affected, particularly when it comes to dementia.”

Those diagnosed with one of the three conditions were found to have a higher prevalence of high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythm, high cholesterol and Type 2 diabetes at the start of the monitoring period.

“These findings strengthen the call for prioritising the focus on preventative interventions at population level, which could substantially reduce the burden of common neurological diseases in the ageing population,” the authors said.

They estimate if onset of dementia, parkinsonism and stroke was delayed by as little as one to three years, the remaining risk of developing the conditions could be cut by 20 per cent among 45-year-olds and more than 50 per cent in those older than 85-years-old.

Dr Routledge said it was “crucial” that efforts to find a drug that could delay the onset of dementia symptoms were increased.

She said: “For most of us, our individual risk of illnesses like dementia is not set in stone and there are things we can all do to help maintain a healthy brain.

“The best current evidence suggests that eating a balanced diet, controlling our weight, staying physically active, not smoking, only drinking within the recommended limits and keeping blood pressure and cholesterol in check are all associated with better brain health into old age.”