Alzheimers NZ says it’s a scandal that successive New Zealand governments have ignored research proving risk reduction strategies can delay and possibly avoid the onset of dementia mate wareware.
Chief executive, Catherine Hall, says with dementia mate wareware numbers expected to jump markedly in New Zealand in coming years, particularly among Māori, Pacific and Asian communities, a national risk reduction programme is a no-brainer.
Ms Hall was referencing a new international research report that says some 40 percent of new dementia mate wareware cases globally could be delayed or potentially avoided with a clearer focus by governments on risk reduction.
The World Alzheimer Report 2023, from Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI), says nearly 140 million people globally will be living with dementia mate wareware by 2050.
ADI is calling on governments around the world to urgently fund risk reduction research, education and support services, and for governments to make risk reduction a core element of their national Dementia Action Plans.
“We have had very little interest in risk reduction strategies from this or any previous governments,” Hall said.
Speaking at an Alzheimers NZ conference to mark World Alzheimer’s Day (September 21), the director of the network of three Dementia Prevention Research Clinics, Professor Lynette Tippett, says risk reduction initiatives could delay or prevent as much as 50 per cent of dementia mate wareware cases in New Zealand.
She says the higher percentage number in New Zealand’s case is largely because of our higher rates of cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes.
Added to this is the fact that growing inequities and social upheavals in our society both heighten the risk of dementia mate wareware and mean that risk is spread unevenly across communities.
“All the evidence says risk reduction is critical, that it does work, and that it could delay or save thousands of New Zealanders from developing dementia mate wareware as they age,” she says.
Professor Tippett says there are 12 proven lifestyle factors that, if modified, can reduce the risk of a person developing dementia mate wareware. The rule of thumb is that what is good for our hearts is good for our brains.
There are also things that can be done after a diagnosis to slow progression of the condition and improve a person’s quality of life – purposeful activity, exercise, cognitive therapies and social engagement.
Catherine Hall says government has a key role to play, including investing now in risk reduction, making sure there is access to the right health services and supports and creating communities and spaces that support risk reduction strategies.
“The fact government continues to ignore all the evidence and the research is a scandal.”
Dementia mate wareware is expected to cost New Zealand nearly $6 billion a year by 2050 and potentially impact almost every Kiwi family in some way.
The 12 factors that are known to increase dementia risk are:
Excessive alcohol consumption
Infrequent social contact
Hall says: “It’s never too early or too late to adjust our lifestyles to reduce our chances of developing dementia mate wareware.”