Every September, people come together from all around the world to raise awareness and to challenge the stigma that persists around dementia, led by Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) and its federation of over 120 Alzheimer’s and dementia associations from around the world. Since its inception, World Alzheimer’s Month has grown dramatically, and September 2023 marks the 12th year of this vital global awareness raising campaign.
Dementia is a non-communicable disease (NCD) which affects over 55 million people globally and is the 7th leading cause of death (the 5th when considering just NCDs). Recent prevalence forecasts suggest that the number of those living with dementia will increase to 139 million by 2050. In 2017, the WHO and all 194 Member States officially recognised dementia as a global health priority through the adoption of the Global Action Plan on the public health response to dementia. Through this plan the global community solidified its commitment to addressing the stigma and discrimination that surrounds dementia, as well as actively acknowledging the need for NCD risk reduction strategies to address the growing impact of dementia on society. Accordingly, the theme for the World Alzheimer’s Month campaign centres on the important topic of risk reduction.
The urgent need for dementia prevention
There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that risk reduction is a robust and tangible way to address the growing prevalence of dementia and accordingly its impact on everyone it affects. In 2020, the Lancet Commission published data to suggest that up to 40% of cases of dementia could be delayed or reduced by focusing on just 12 modifiable risk factors. In addition, in 2022 the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation explored the prevalence of dementia and in doing so evaluated the contribution of these risk factors to future estimates. Despite data suggesting that improvements to access to education could lead to 6 million fewer cases of dementia worldwide by 2050, concerningly this was offset by a projected 7 million additional dementia cases linked to projected rates of obesity, high blood sugar, and smoking. The evidence demonstrates a clear and logical case to prioritise risk reduction efforts globally.
While the risk factors for dementia are well known, it is also important that the public are provided with robust and intelligible information to allow them to make tangible changes to their lives. It is for this reason that on the 21st of September, Alzheimer’s Disease International will publish the World Alzheimer Report 2023, focusing on this topic. The report will aim to address the common risk factors for the condition and provide useful information to those wishing to reduce their own risk. Importantly the report will also cover areas where a wider governmental or policy response is required. For example, it is not practical nor sensical to advise people living in areas of high air pollution to move to more ‘cleaner’ areas and governments must step up to ensure that improvements are made to air quality.
Never too late, never too early
Dementia is a condition which has a devastating impact on those living with the condition as well as their friends and family. It is #NeverTooLate and #NeverTooEarly to start. This #WorldAlzMonth it is our hope that everyone, all around the world, will feel empowered and emboldened to make positive changes in their life to potentially prevent or delay the onset of the condition.