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Lifestyle changes may reduce risk of dementia

17 September 2014

World Alzheimer Report 2014 reveals simple lifestyle changes may reduce risk of dementia

The latest World Alzheimer Report released today by Alzheimer’s Disease International indicates there are a number of simple lifestyle changes people can make to reduce their risk of developing dementia in later life.

The World Alzheimer Report 2014, titled ‘Dementia Risk Reduction: An analysis of protective and modifiable factors’, which was launched in New Zealand today by Alzheimers NZ and Bupa, indicates that essentially, what is good for the heart is good for the brain. There is persuasive evidence that the risk of dementia can be reduced by limiting tobacco use, better control and detection of high blood pressure and diabetes, as well as other cardiovascular risk factors.

Professor Martin Prince, from King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience and author of the report, commented: “There is already evidence from several studies that the incidence of dementia may be falling in high income countries, linked to improvements in education and cardiovascular health. We need to do all we can to accentuate these trends.”

In New Zealand there are currently around 50,000 New Zealanders living with dementia, a number which is forecast to triple to around 150,000 by 2050. The total financial cost of dementia in New Zealand in 2011 was estimated at nearly $1 billion.

Catherine Hall, Executive Director of Alzheimers NZ, said the report indicates people may be able to reduce their chances of developing dementia by making a few simple lifestyle changes. These include looking after your heart, being physically active, living a healthy lifestyle, challenging your brain and enjoying social activity.

“The evidence in the report suggests that if we enter old age with better developed, healthier brains we are likely to live longer, happier and more independent lives, with a much reduced chance of developing dementia,” Ms Hall says.

“Living a healthy lifestyle, keeping our brains active and remaining socially engaged can help keep our brains healthy.”

However, survey data released today by Bupa* has shown that many New Zealanders are not aware of the things they can do to potentially reduce their risk of developing dementia.

Gráinne Moss, Managing Director of Bupa NZ, said recent research indicates that 69% of New Zealanders are concerned about developing dementia. However, few people are aware that leading a healthy lifestyle could impact their risk of developing dementia, with the majority believing that age (72%) and genetics (67%) are contributing factors.

“We believe the report provides us with a valuable set of tools and insights that we can all use. Our research findings highlight the need for us to raise awareness among New Zealanders so that they can take action.” says Mrs Moss

Ms Hall says as a result of the findings of the report, Alzheimers NZ is calling for dementia related messaging to be included in mainstream health promotion campaigns.

“We’ve known for some time that keeping fit and active, eating well and refraining from smoking is good for our hearts. It now appears that what is good for our hearts is also good for our brains, so now is the time to start making these lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of developing dementia,” she says.

“People who have or are showing signs of dementia can also do these things, which may help to slow the progression of their dementia.”


Notes to Editors:

The World Alzheimer Report 2014
Titled ‘Dementia Risk Reduction: An analysis of protective and modifiable factors’ the 2014 World Alzheimer Report is the fifth World Alzheimer Report published by Alzheimer’s Disease International.

The global report provides the first ever comprehensive picture of the evidence related to reducing the risk of dementia. The full report is available here.

Bupa Survey Results
The full survey results can be found at

* All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,002 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 17-24 July 2014. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all New Zealand adults (aged 18+). An even weighting was applied to each country to find a ‘Global Average’.

About Alzheimers NZ
Alzheimers New Zealand represents people affected by dementia at a national level by raising awareness of dementia, providing information and resources for people affected by dementia, advocating for high quality services for people affected by dementia, and promoting research about prevention, treatment, cure and care of people affected by dementia.

We support a federation of 21 local Alzheimers NZ organisations throughout New Zealand, each of which is a member of Alzheimers NZ. Local Alzheimers organisations provide support, education, information and related services directly to members of their communities who are affected by dementia.

About Bupa
Bupa Care Services New Zealand is part of Bupa, a leading international healthcare company. Established in New Zealand in 1991, Bupa has three aged care businesses; rest homes and hospitals; retirement villages and personal medical alarms plus a brain rehabilitation business, looking after more than 16,000 New Zealanders.

Around the world, Bupa offers health insurance and medical subscription products, and runs care homes, retirement villages, hospitals, primary care centres and dental clinics. We also provide workplace health services, home healthcare, health assessments and long-term condition management services.

We have over 22 million customers in 190 countries. With no shareholders, we invest our profits to provide more and better healthcare and fulfil our purpose.

We employ more than 70,000 people, principally in the UK, Australia, Spain, Poland, New Zealand and Chile, as well as Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, India, Thailand, and the USA.

Bupa is the largest international provider of specialist dementia care, caring for more than 24,000 residents with dementia.

For more information, visit

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