BY SARAH OWENS
Efforts to reduce stroke risk may also reduce the risk of dementia among people aged 80 and older, who often have the highest risks for both conditions, according to a study published online on April 28 in the journal Alzheimer's and Dementia.
Similar Risk Factors
Stroke and dementia share many risk factors, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and poor health and exercise habits. In addition, people who have a stroke are about two times as likely to develop dementia as people who don't have one, even if they don't have any other cardiovascular risk factors.
Both conditions are also major public health concerns. Stroke prevention campaigns have resulted in a modest reduction in stroke rates and in the number of people who die from a stroke over the past two decades, but it is still a major preventable cause of death in older adults. And cases of dementia are projected to increase in the near future, as the percentage of older adults in the population increases.
If a campaign to reduce stroke could also reduce dementia, doctors could score a one-two win for public health.
To find out if stroke prevention equals dementia prevention, researchers at the University of Western Ontario in Canada examined the effects of a robust stroke-prevention campaign initiated in 2000 in the province of Ontario. They used a number of nationwide administrative databases at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Canada to calculate the number of strokes and cases of dementia throughout Ontario from 2002 to 2013.
During this period, the number of strokes remained unchanged among those between ages 20 and 49 years. The number decreased by 22.7 percent for those between ages 50 and 64; by 36.9 percent for those between ages 65 and 79; and by 37.9 percent for those aged 80 and older.
The number of cases of dementia increased by 17.3 percent in people between ages 20 and 49 and by 23.5 percent in those between ages 50 and 64 years, which researchers hypothesized may be due to greater awareness of young-onset dementia as well as over diagnosis of dementia in this age group. For those between the ages of 65 and 79, the number of cases of dementia remained unchanged. Most importantly, in those 80 and older, the number of cases decreased by 15.4 percent.
The results, the study authors say, show that a public health campaign to reduce stroke among those aged 80 and older may also be effective at reducing dementia. Since people in this age group are especially vulnerable to stroke and dementia and more often have one or more risk factors, the results are very promising, they add.
Given the effectiveness of Ontario's campaign, they conclude, public health agencies in other areas throughout the world should strive to develop "integrated systems of stroke and dementia prevention."