NeuRA Magazine #25

Feature story

AGEING WELL FOR LIFE

Professor Kaarin Anstey

Understanding risk factors around dementia with Professor Kaarin Anstey

“Waiting until your 60s and thinking,
‘I don’t want to get dementia’ isn’t a great plan,” says Professor Kaarin Anstey.

We think about our superannuation before retirement, so why don’t we do the same with dementia? Almost one in 10 Australians aged over 65 have dementia; by age 85, the prevalence increases to one in three. It was once thought that dementia was a late-life disease that could not be prevented. But we now know that we can do a lot to reduce our risk.

You really have to be thinking about protecting your brain across all age groups of your life. It can be hard to think about being 80 when you are only 40 but creating an ageing well life-plan ahead of retirement will support you and your family in the years to come.

Research has shown that there are actions you can take now to reduce your risk of dementia, and these need to be incorporated into your healthy living plan as early as possible.

It’s predicted that there will be almost one million Australians with dementia by 2050 and 10 times as many family members and friends suffering indirectly from its effects. It’s never too late to start your ageing well plan.

There is so much we can all do to age well. Start by watching our Ageing Well for Life seminar series online at www.neuratalks.org

The seminar series, led by Professor Kaarin Anstey, Senior Principal Research Scientist at NeuRA and global leader in dementia and ageing research, takes you through the simple steps you can take to age well and reduce your risk of dementia.

Cognitive activity is important

We know from lots of research that people who do more stimulating activities throughout their life have better brain function and a lower chance of developing dementia.  

A cognitive activity is an activity that challenges our perception, attention, memory, reasons and problem-solving abilities. There is a wide range of cognitive activities, some of them involve everyday activities like reading a book, and others challenge our mind like puzzles or crosswords. Scientists think that such activities may protect the brain by establishing ‘cognitive reserve’. 

When our ‘cognitive lifestyle’ doesn’t have enough cognitive activities then we are more likely to have problems with our thinking and memory and be at risk of age-related diseases (like dementia). Even if you have not been cognitively active so far, starting today may still have a large impact on dementia risk. 

See what’s going on at NeuRA

FEEL THE BUZZ IN THE AIR? US TOO.

LEAD!- Leveraging Evidence into Action on Dementia

Currently, there is no effective treatment for dementia, highlighting the urgent need to preventing more cases through evidence-based strategies for risk reduction. As there is an overlap between the risk factors for dementia and other preventable non-communicable diseases including stroke, diabetes, and heart disease, it is important to build upon proven risk-reduction strategies. What is LEAD? LEAD! is a project funded by the NHMRC Boosting Dementia Research Grant led by Professor Kaarin Anstey. It involves an international collaboration between leading academics, clinicians, consumers, and community members. Organisations involved include the Department of Health, WHO, Dementia Australia, Alzheimer’s Disease International, Diabetes Australia, and Heart Foundation. The project aims to translate dementia research and implement evidence-based strategies for dementia risk reduction to individuals, communities, and healthcare centres. Three workstreams The project has three concurrent workstreams over five years: Development, Implementation, and Evaluation and adoption. The Development stream, led by Professor Kaarin Anstey and Associate Professor Peters, focuses on building a new tool for predicting dementia and other non-communicable diseases including stroke, diabetes or myocardial infarction. The tool will be available to the public, researchers and clinicians. It will save clinical assessment time, accurately predict multiple outcomes and will be more acceptable in comparison to using individual tools for each disease outcome. The Implementation stream led by Professor Nicola Lautenschalger’s team at the University of Melbourne, will develop strategies to support the implementation of dementia risk reduction evidence by engaging with consumers, clinicians, policy makers, and the public. The stream will develop strategies for incorporating the new risk assessment tool into various technological platforms (e.g., websites or apps). The Evaluation and adoption stream, led by Professor Anstey and in collaboration with Professor Louisa Jorm and Dr Heidi Welberry at UNSW, focuses on measuring trajectories of Australian’s national risk factor profiles for multiple chronic diseases. Collaboration with key stakeholders including the WHO will help build an evaluation framework and methodology for implementing evidence on dementia risk reduction based on WHO guidelines at national level and in the global context.
PROJECT