Leading nurse sounds note of caution on dementia study's findings

Heathier lifestyles may be behind a 20% fall in UK dementia cases since 1990s, a new study suggests

A leading dementia nurse believes many people remain undiagnosed with dementia after a new study found a 20% reduction in the number of cases.

The study, led by Carol Brayne at the University of Cambridge, concluded there are likely to be 40,000 fewer cases of dementia than expected due to a reduction in smoking and better diets.

Academics interviewed 7,500 people aged 65 and over in three English regions between 1991 and 1994, with repeat interviews two years later. Two decades later 7,500 new people aged 65 and over were interviewed with repeat interviews two years later.

Leading dementia nurse and emeritus professor at the University of Stirling June Andrews said: ‘I would be thrilled if there is evidence that the numbers of people with dementia have reduced. Perhaps some of the public health messages we are trying to put across to people have helped.

‘But there is a depressing possibility that a lot of us have been miscounted in the first place. With an ageing population, huge numbers of people will get dementia.’

The findings suggest that in the UK there are just under 210,000 new cases of dementia per year – 74,000 in men and 135,000 women – this is compared to an anticipated 250,000 new cases based on previous levels. Incidence rates are higher in more deprived areas.

Professor Brayne said: ‘Our findings suggest that brain health is improving significantly in the UK across generations, particularly among men, but that deprivation is still putting people at a disadvantage.’

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